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Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

I V:  tries 


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New  American  Video  Art 

A  Historical  Survey  1967-1980 

Traveling  Exhibition  organized  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York 


Introduction  by  John  G.  Hanhardt  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


"New  American  Video  Art"  surveys  the  emergence  of 
video  as  an  art  form  from  its  beginnings  in  1967  to  1980. 
These  first  years  in  the  history  of  video  art  saw  a  wide 
variety  of  approaches  that  sought  to  describe  and  de- 
fine a  new  field  of  art-making.  But  behind  the  diversity 
of  these  initial  efforts  lie  three  features  common  to  video 
art  in  this  period:  a  collaboration  with  the  other  arts,  an 
involvement  with  political  and  ideological  debates, 
and  an  intentional  distinction  from  commercial  tele- 
vision. 

By  the  late  1960s,  television  had  become  a  pervasive 
mass  medium  viewed  in  virtually  every  home.  On 
home  television  sets,  the  public  was  offered  a  homoge- 
neous selection  of  programming  that  followed  for- 
mulas for  structure,  running  time,  and  content.  The 
viewer's  perception  of  the  medium  was  largely  deter- 
mined by  the  role  television  had  come  to  play  as  a 
commercial  entertainment  and  information  industry 
whose  success — and  therefore  profit — was  gauged  by 
the  number  of  viewers  it  attracted.  In  an  attempt  to 
challenge  the  television  industry's  hegemony,  many 
artist-activists  worked,  often  as  collectives,  to  use  video 
as  a  tool  for  social  change.  At  the  same  time,  video 
artists  began  producing  tapes  and  installations  de- 
signed to  explore  the  medium's  potential  for  a  new 
aesthetic  discourse.  It  is  the  work  of  this  latter  group  that 
"New  American  Video  Art"  seeks  to  elucidate. 

While  a  number  of  artists  began  experimenting  with 
television  in  the  mid-1960s,  the  direct  appropriation  of 
television  began  with  the  manipulation  or  destruction 
of  the  television  set  itself  in  the  early  Fluxus  art  projects 
of  the  Korean-born  composer  and  musician  Nam  June 
Paik  and  of  the  German  artist  Wolf  Vostell.  Vostell  and 
Paik's  actions  signaled  a  reevaluation  of  the  television 
set  as  a  cultural  icon  and  as  a  technological  product 


removed  from  the  control  of  the  individual.  Their  first 
exhibitions,  held  in  West  Germany  and  the  United 
States,  reflect  the  international  dimension  of  video  art's 
beginnings.  They  also  show  how  television  contributed 
to  the  changing  dynamic  of  the  arts  in  the  early  1 960s,  a 
process  that  involved  a  reexamination  of  sacrosanct 
visual  traditions.  One  manifestation  of  this  change  was 
the  focus  on  popular  culture  at  large,  formalized  in 
painting  and  sculpture  as  Pop  Art. 

Just  as  the  emergence  of  independent  filmmaking  in 
the  1940s  owed  much  to  the  development  of  the  small- 
gauge  16mm  camera,  video  became  more  accessible 
to  artists  and  activists  in  1965  when  the  Sony  Corpora- 
tion introduced  its  portable  videotape  recorder  into  the 
New  York  market.  Nam  June  Paik  and  Les  Levine  were 
the  first  artists  to  use  it.  In  1965,  at  the  Cafe  a  Go-Go  in 
New  York,  Paik  showed  his  first  videotape — of  Pope  Paul 
VI  's  visit  to  the  city,  shot  with  a  portable  video  camera  he 
had  bought  that  day.  In  a  sense,  Paik's  action  symbolizes 
the  initial  attraction  of  this  equipment:  it  was  portable, 
and,  unlike  film,  which  had  to  be  processed,  you  could 
immediately  see  on  a  monitor  what  the  video  camera 
was  recording. 

It  was  commonly  believed  that  the  new  video  equip- 
ment would  enable  the  avant-garde  producer  to  re- 
move the  production  of  video  from  the  economic  and 
ideological  constraints  of  the  television  industry.  Fur- 
ther, in  keeping  with  Marshall  McLuhan's  theories,  en- 
capsulated in  his  aphorism  "the  medium  is  the  mes- 
sage," many  artists  envisioned  an  electronic  age  where 
the  individual  and  collective  producers  would  partici- 
pate in  a  "global  village"  of  information  and  images 
that  superseded  national  and  cultural  boundaries. 
While  many  of  these  expectations  remain  unfulfilled, 
this  optimism  and  spirit  resulted  in  a  rich  and  diverse 


This  traveling  exhibition  was  made  possible  by  a  generous  grant  from 
National  Committee  of  the  Whitney  Museum. 


group  of  works  that  prompt  us  to  think  about  the  poten- 
tial of  television  as  both  a  social  and  aesthetic  force. 

"New  American  Video  Art"  surveys,  within  a  chrono- 
logical framework,  the  kinds  of  technical  changes  and 
aesthetic  and  philosophical  issues  that  appear  and  re- 
appear throughout  the  period.  Although  it  is  impossible 
to  categorize  every  tape,  a  number  of  approaches  can 
be  identified.  In  image  processing,  an  aesthetic  that 
has  evolved  in  contrast  to  broadcast  television's  "spe- 
cial effects,"  a  variety  of  electronic  devices  transforms 
both  prerecorded  and  electronically  generated  imag- 
ery. In  personal  documentaries,  the  hand-held  video 
camera  becomes  the  means  to  examine  the  dynamics 
of  places  and  events.  Performance  videotapes  employ 
a  range  of  narrative  strategies  to  investigate  the  artist's 
self,  the  psychology  of  image  manipulation,  and  the 
relationship  between  the  viewer  and  the  artist/per- 
former. Other  tapes  use  the  properties  of  the  video  im- 
age and  the  image-making  process  to  explore  the  epis- 
temology  of  perception.  Finally,  some  artists  have 
produced  narratives  and  texts  in  order  to  criticize  or 
counter  the  ubiquity  of  commercial  television. 


Videotape  Study  No  3.  1967-69,  Jud  Yalkut  and  Nam  June  Paik 


Program  1  begins  with  two  tapes  that  are  directly  re- 
lated to  the  institution  of  broadcast  television  and  the 
political  climate  of  the  late  1960s.  In  Videotape  Study 
No.  3,  Jud  Yalkut  and  Nam  June  Paik,  who  viewed  the 
medium  as  potentially  subversive,  mocked  the  actions 
of  politicians  and  the  role  of  television  during  this 
period  of  urban  unrest  and  the  United  States  military 
involvement  in  Vietnam,  Yalkut  and  Paik  satirized  Presi- 
dent Lyndon  Johnson  and  New  York  City  Mayor  John 
Lindsay  by  manipulating  footage  of  their  TV  ap- 
pearances. The  resulting  distortion,  which  is  counter- 
pointed  by  an  equally  manipulated  soundtrack  that 


contains  excerpts  from  their  speeches  and  interviews, 
presents  these  men  as  foolish  and  hypocritical. 

An  early  effort  to  bring  video  artists  to  television  was 
made  by  WGBH,  Boston,  which,  like  WNET,  New  York, 
and  KQED,  San  Francisco,  was  one  of  the  most  inno- 
vative stations  of  the  Public  Broadcasting  System.  Six 
artists  ( Aldo  Tambellini,  Thomas  Tadlock,  Allan  Kaprow, 
Otto  Piene,  James  Seawright,  and  Nam  June  Paik)  were 
commissioned  to  create  programs  for  public  broadcast 
and  given  access  to  the  station's  facilities.  The  30-minute 
combined  program,  The  Medium  Is  the  Medium,  is  one 
of  the  first  examples  of  video  art  to  appear  on  television. 
We  see  image-processing  techniques  employed  to 
transform  prerecorded  footage  and  generate  new 
kinds  of  abstract  imagery.  These  include  colorizing, 
where  a  color  signal  is  added  to  a  black  and  white  or 
another  color  signal,  resulting  in  brilliant,  intense  im- 
ages; mixing,  which  involves  the  superimposition  of  two 
or  more  images,  like  photographic  double  exposure; 
chroma-keying,  a  masking  process  in  which  an  image 
is  inserted  into  specific  areas  of  the  frame,  switching,  in 
which  two  video  images  are  displayed  alternately  at 
varying  rates;  and  fades  and  wipes,  which  are  vari- 
ations of  switching  and  mixing.  The  Medium  Is  the  Me- 
dium also  includes  productions  that  demonstrate  tele- 
vision's potential  as  a  two-way  communications 
medium.  In  Kaprow's  Hello  the  participants  talk  with 
each  other  via  a  live  feed,  and  in  Electronic  Opera  No. 
1  Paik  humorously  invites  viewers  to  respond  to  his  in- 
structions. 

In  addition  to  producing  single-channel  videotapes, 
artists  began  using  television  in  video  environments, 
which  later  became  known  as  installations.  These 
large-scale  video  projects  added  a  temporal  dimen- 
sion to  sculpture  through  the  use  of  live  and  pre- 
recorded video.  Ira  Schneider's  videotape  record  of 
the  1969  Howard  Wise  Gallery  exhibition,  TV  as  a  Cre- 
ative Medium,  documents  some  of  the  twelve  pieces 
included  in  the  show,  among  them  Serge  Boutourline's 
Telediscretion,  Paik  and  Charlotte  Moorman's  TV  Bra 
for  Living  Sculpture,  Eric  Siegel's  Psychedelevision  in 
Color,  Thomas  Tadlock's  Archetron,  Aldo  Tambellini's 
Black  Spiral,  and  Joe  Weintraub's  AC/TV  (Audio  Con- 
trolled Television).  The  tape  is  a  straightforward  pre- 
sentation of  the  featured  works,  in  which  Schneider 
walks  through  the  gallery  and  captures  the  exhibition's 
ambience  and  scope.  TV  as  a  Creative  Medium  also 
includes  Ira  Schneider  and  Frank  Gillette's  Wipe  Cycle, 
a  project  conceived  of  as  a  kind  of  television  mural. 
Viewers  faced  a  bank  of  nine  monitors  in  which  they 
could  see  themselves  and  the  surrounding  space  from 
different  points  of  view,  at  diflerent  moments  in  time;  this 
video  alternated  with  programming  from  commercial 
television. 


Undertone.  1972.  Vito  Acconci 


In  Schneider's  tape  and  others  from  this  period,  the 
grainy  quality  of  the  image  and  instability  of  the  picture 
reveal  how  technically  inferior  was  the  video  equip- 
ment used  compared  to  the  broadcast  TV  standard.  But 
despite  these  limitations  and,  indeed,  because  of  the 
intentional  distancing  from  broadcast  TV,  low-cost 
video  offered  an  attractive  means  for  artists  seeking  to 
further  reexamine  the  definition  of  the  art  object.  The 
Conceptual,  Minimalist,  process,  and  body  art  move- 
ments were  challenging  the  dominant  notion  of  what 
constituted  fine  art.  Because  video,  like  photography, 
was  a  medium  that  could  be  easily  reproduced,  artists 
used  it  to  challenge  not  only  the  notion  of  the  traditional 
uniqueness  of  the  artwork,  but  the  material  basis  of 
traditional  aesthetics.  Video  installations  added  a  new 
aspect  to  the  physical  object  of  sculpture:  the  moving 
image,  recorded  over  time,  was  used  to  manipulate 
the  viewer's  point  of  view  within  the  space.  In  Bruce 
Nauman's  Corridor  (1969-70),  for  instance,  a  pas- 
sageway became  a  sculptural  form,  and  the  viewer's 
presence  was  perceived  through  and  mediated  by  the 
video  camera's  point  of  view. 

Nauman's  videotapes  also  confronted  the  concept  of 
time  and  vantage  point.  In  Lip  Sync,  the  sole  videotape 
in  Program  2,  Nauman  appears  upside  down,  in  close- 
up,  wearing  headphones.  As  he  repeats  the  title  words 
over  and  over,  his  voice  constantly  goes  in  and  out  of 
sync  with  his  moving  lips,  creating  a  work  that  has  no 
beginning  or  end.  By  stretching  time  (the  activity  con- 
tinues for  the  duration  of  the  60-minute  reel)  and  mak- 
ing the  artist's  own  single  gesture  the  tape's  subject, 
Nauman  frustrates  the  viewer's  expectations  for  nar- 
rative development  and  closure.  Thus,  repetition  be- 
comes a  strategy  for  exploring  our  perception  and  un- 
derstanding of  a  temporal  action  stripped  of  all 


narrative  meaning.  Lip  Sync  should  be  viewed  in  rela- 
tion to  Program  3,  in  which  single  actions  have  decep- 
tively complex  effects. 

Program  3  opens  with  Vertical  Roll,  in  which  the  cho- 
reographer and  dancer  Joan  Jonas  uses  the  vertical 
rolling  action  of  a  misadjusted  television  set — normally 
seen  as  a  technical  flaw — as  a  constantly  moving  frame 
for  her  performance.  Her  actions  are  directed  not  only 
fo  the  camera  but  through  it,  to  the  monitor  itself.  Be- 
cause her  actions  change  with  each  roll,  she  calls  atten- 
tion to  the  ephemeral  nature  of  the  video  image.  Ac- 
companying Vertical  Roll  in  this  program  is  Undertone 
by  Vito  Acconci.  A  leading  body  art  and  Conceptual 
performance  artist,  Acconci  is  seated  in  this  tape  at  the 
head  of  a  table  facing  the  camera  and  the  viewer.  He 
delivers  a  monologue  exhorting  the  viewer  to  imagine 
what  he  is  doing  with  his  hands  underneath  the  table 
top.  Often  highly  charged  and  erotic,  Acconci's  speech 
implicates  the  viewer  as  a  voyeur,  all  the  while  express- 
ing the  performer's  need  for  an  audience. 

In  Program  4  John  Baldessari,  William  Wegman,  and 
Peter  Campus,  like  Nauman  in  Program  2,  and  Jonas 
and  Acconci  in  Program  3,  capitalized  on  the  potential 
privacy  of  video  production;  artists  could  simply  set  up 
a  camera  in  a  stationary  position  anyplace  and  en- 
gage in  single-take,  unedited  performances.  Thus, 
these  artists'  actions  constituted  the  very  process  of  mak- 
ing art;  the  tapes  became  substitutes  for  the  actual  art 
object,  a  strategy  uniquely  suited  to  video  technology 
and  especially  expressive  of  the  aesthetics  of  process 
art,  Minimalism,  performance,  and  Conceptual  art. 

Like  Nauman,  Jonas,  and  Acconci,  John  Baldessari 
came  to  video  from  other  art  forms,  in  his  case  from 
photography  and  drawing.  In  Inventory,  one  can  see 
how  he  establishes,  like  the  others,  a  rigorous  strategy 
for  exploring  the  perceptual  properties  of  the  video 


Three  Transitions.  1973,  Peter  Campus. 


image-making  process.  Baldessari  here  transforms  a 
seemingly  uninteresting  activity — the  attempt  to  iden- 
tify and  describe  objects  as  they  are  placed  before 
him — into  a  study  in  perception.  His  droll  and  deadpan 
commentary  is  at  once  humorous  and  thought-provok- 
ing. The  viewer  realizes  how  the  camera  view  flattens 
the  three-dimensional  object  and  also  affects  its  scale, 
so  that  familiar  objects  appear  to  require  Baldessari's 
verbal  description  in  order  to  be  identified. 

Following  Baldessari's  videotape  is  William  Weg- 
man's  Selected  Works,  Reel  4,  in  which  the  artist  is  seen 
in  a  series  of  vignettes  produced  in  his  studio.  Wegman 
engages  in  short  narrative  routines  that  poke  fun  at 
common  foibles  and  activities  as  his  "character"  at- 
tempts to  cope  with  the  vicissitudes  of  everyday  life. 
Joining  Wegman  is  his  pet  Weimaraner,  "Man  Ray" 
who  acts  as  the  artist's  unflappable  sidekick.  We  see  in 
these  works  not  only  Wegman's  subtle  humor  and  the- 
atrical timing  but  an  early  example  of  performance 
activity  that  reflects  both  television — the  routines  recall 
those  of  the  pioneer  TV  comedian  Ernie  Kovacs — and 
the  performance  art  of  the  1970s.  The  third  tape,  Three 
Transitions  by  Peter  Campus,  employs  chroma-keying. 
In  one  of  the  "transitions"  we  see  Campus  burning  a 
sheet  of  paper  on  which  appears  to  be  his  own  live 
image.  Through  chroma-keying,  the  paper  is  replaced 
with  a  live  image  of  the  artist  so  that  he  observes  an 
illusion  of  his  own  face  being  burned.  Campus,  who 
also  created  some  of  the  key  video  installations  of  the 
1 970s,  has  here  wittily  transformed  his  image  into  a  new 
form  of  video  self-portrait. 

Television  is  both  implicitly  and  explicitly  the  subject 
of  the  tapes  in  Program  5,  which  encompasses  work 
from  1972  to  1974.  David  Antin,  in  his  seminal  essay 
"Video:  The  Distinctive  Features  of  the  Medium," 
dubbed  television  "video's  frightful  parent"  to  remind 


You  are  the  product 
of  t.v. 


You  are  delivered  to 
the  advertiser  who  is 
the  customer. 


Television  Delivers  People.  1973.  Richard  Serra 


Underscan,  1974,  Nancy  Holt. 

us  of  the  art  form's  not-so-distant  relationship  to  the  in- 
dustry. While  some  artists  consciously  rejected  both  the 
form  and  content  of  television  programming,  others 
have  adopted  its  conventions.  Richard  Serra's  Tele- 
vision Delivers  People  consists  of  a  printed  text  of  facts 
and  opinions  critical  of  the  television  industry.  They  are 
strung  together  as  aphorisms  that  roll  up  the  screen, 
producing  an  indictment  of  the  industry.  The  Muzak 
heard  over  the  text  provides  a  lulling  musical  back- 
ground that  softens  the  information's  critical  edge,  just 
as  television  avoids  harsh  realities  by  "selling"  the  news 
as  a  commercial  commodity. 

In  contrast,  Nam  June  Paik's  Global  Groove  is  a  cele- 
bration of  television's  avant-garde  potential,  Shots  of 
Allen  Ginsberg  chanting,  John  Cage  telling  a  story,  and 
Charlotte  Moorman  performing  with  her  cello  are  in- 
terspersed with  commercials  from  Japanese  television, 
pop  songs,  and  dance.  Global  Groove  is  intended  as  a 
vision  of  the  future  of  television  when  "TV  Guide  will  be 
as  thick  as  the  Manhattan  telephone  directory" — a  fu- 
ture of  infinite,  global  possibilities  imagined  by  Paik  in  a 
bravura  collage  of  images  created  with  the  Paik/Abe 
video  synthesizer. 

Douglas  Davis'  Handling  (The  Austrian  Tapes)  was 
produced  for  Austrian  television  and,  as  with  Davis' 
later  satellite  performance  projects,  calls  attention  to 
viewers'  normally  passive  role  in  watching  television. 
Davis  seeks  to  involve  them  as  participants  by  asking 
them  to  touch  the  screen  of  their  home  television  sets  as 
they  watch  his  program.  Ira  Schneider  and  Beryl  Korot's 
Fourth  of  July  in  Saugerties  documents  a  small-town 
community  event.  The  process  exemplifies  the  kind  of 
personal  appropriation  of  the  television  medium  that  is 
facilitated  by  the  hand-held  portability  of  video  equip- 
ment. 

Program  6  represents  a  diverse  selection  of  works 
which  describe  other  areas  of  video  activity  in  the  first 


€ 


* 


half  of  the  1970s.  These  locus  on  the  issues  ol  cross- 
media  iniluence  and  collaboration,  new  technologies, 
and  feminism.  In  Scapemates.  lor  instance,  Ed  Em- 
shwiller  collaborates  with  dancers  and  choreog- 
raphers to  translate — not  merely  record — the  dance 
experience  through  special  video  effects  that  allow  im- 
ages to  be  juxtaposed  and  otherwise  altered. 

These  effects  were  usually  only  possible  through  the 
use  of  expensive  broadcasting  devices.  However,  some 
artists,  notably  Steina  and  Woody  Vasulka,  pioneered 
the  development  of  relatively  low-cost  video  tools.  They 
commissioned  engineers  to  build  specialized  devices 
such  as  keyers,  switchers,  and  colorizers.  With  this 
equipment,  the  Vasulkas  investigated  the  video  image 
and  sound  as  visual  and  aural  manifestations  of  the 
electronic  signal.  In  one  image  from  Vocabulary,  a 
hand  first  appears  to  hold  beams  of  electronic  energy 
and  is  then  transformed  into  a  video  pattern — an  ele- 
gant expression  of  the  artist's  hand  molding  a  new  vi- 
sual material. 

A  number  of  women  were  using  video  and  other 
media  to  expand  on  an  emerging  feminist  art.  They 
opened  up  formerly  taboo  subjects  such  as  personal 
experience  and  female  sexuality.  Thus,  Nancy  Holt's 
Underscan,  which  portrays  the  monotonous  routines  of 
her  Aunt  Ethel's  daily  life,  is  one  of  a  number  of  auto- 
biographical works  produced  at  the  time.  And  Lynda 
Benglis,  whose  work  in  sculpture  and  performance 
often  outraged  audiences,  explored  pop  culture  and  its 
objectification  of  the  female  body  in  Female  Sen- 
sibility. 

Program  7  features  three  artists'  representations  of 
nature,  people,  and  places  in  personal  documentaries. 
Frank  Gillette's  Hark  Hork  is  both  an  evocative  medita- 
tion on  nature  and  an  exploration  of  the  flora  and 
fauna  of  an  ecology.  As  in  his  installations,  Gillette  looks 
to  the  process  of  nature  for  the  systems  which  guide 
human  biology  and  thought.  His  videotapes  isolate  an 
aspect  of  that  ecosystem  in  elegant  and  rigorous  com- 
positions. For  Andy  Mann,  in  contrast,  the  portable 
video  camera  was  a  means  for  studying  the  people 
who  inhabit  the  environment  around  him.  In  One-Eyed 
Bum,  the  camera's  presence  becomes  a  vehicle  of 
communication  between  two  strangers,  Mann  and  a 
Bowery  derelict.  Juan  Downey's  Moving,  an  impres- 
sionistic view  of  a  car  trip  to  California,  shows  the  ca- 
pacity of  video  to  serve  as  a  kind  of  diary  that  captures 
the  quality  of  travel  and  quotidian  experiences. 

Program  8  demonstrates  the  many  ways  that  the 
notion  of  "performance"  was  interpreted  and  enlarged 
upon  in  the  mid- 1 970s.  In  Semiotics  of  the  Kitchen,  Mar- 
tha Rosier  transforms  kitchen  implements  into  symbols 
of  female  frustration  and  rage.  Rosier  delivers  a  dead- 
pan performance  that,  unlike  Julia  Child's  cheerful  TV 


Female  Sensibility.  1974.  Lynda  Benglis. 

delivery,  challenges  accepted  ideas  of  female  domes- 
ticity. Terry  Fox's  Children's  Tapes:  A  Selection,  on  the 
other  hand,  uses  ordinary  household  objects,  such  as 
spoons,  matches,  and  string,  to  create  humorous  surreal 
"events"  that  mark  the  passage  of  time  and  serve  as 
pseudo-lessons  in  chemistry  and  physics. 

In  Richard  Serra's  Boomerang,  artist  Nancy  Holt 
wears  headphones  through  which  she  can  hear  her 
own  voice  in  time  delay.  Holt  describes  the  confusion 
she  experiences:  as  she  tries  to  speak,  her  voice 
"boomerangs"  back  through  the  headphones,  interfer- 
ing with  her  ability  to  articulate  a  thought.  Finally,  in 
Running  Outburst,  Charlemagne  Palestine  exploits  the 
jumpiness  of  the  hand-held  camera  as  a  marker  of  his 
presence  in  space.  This  is  underscored  by  the  topsy- 
turvy quality  of  the  video  and  by  the  modulation  of 
Palestine's  voice  created  by  his  movement. 

Program  9  offers  three  examples  from  the  mid-1970s 
of  artists  once  again  confronting  the  television  industry. 
Stephen  Beck's  Video  Ecotopia,  produced  with  the 
Beck  Direct  Video  Synthesizer,  projects  a  visionary  im- 
age of  how  the  tools  of  television  can  be  used  to  create 
a  Utopian  video  environment.  Beck's  post-industrial 
landscape  expresses  the  optimism  of  a  vision  rooted  in 
the  ideology  of  a  "greening"  of  America  then  current  in 
contemporary  social  thinking. 

Ant  Farm,  a  West  Coast  architecture  collective,  began 
producing  media  events  in  San  Francisco.  Media  Burn 
is  a  satiric  look  at  television.  In  this  elaborately  staged 
event,  the  group  constructed  a  wall  ol  old  TVs  into 
which  was  driven  a  Cadillac  specially  modified  with 
video  equipment.  This  happening  was  covered  by  the 
local  TV  stations,  a  coverage  that  became  part  of  Ant 
Farm's  own  documentation  on  videotape.  In  1977,  an- 
other California  group,  TVTV,  which  has  produced  a 
number  of  successful  video  documentaries,  created 


/  Want  to  Live  in  the  Country  (And  Other  Romances).  1976.  Joan  Jonas. 

their  first  dramatic  series.  Birth  of  an  Industry,  aired  on 
KCET,  Los  Angeles,  as  part  of  the  Supershow  series,  is  a 
critical  drama  based  on  the  early  years  of  television. 

Program  1 0  features  two  works  that  reflect  the  perfor- 
mance and  mixed-media  experience  of  the  artists.  In 
subject,  the  works  speculate  on  the  artist's  place  in  so- 
ciety. In  I  Want  to  Live  in  the  Country  (And  Other  Ro- 
mances). Joan  Jonas  juxtaposes  footage  of  the  Nova 
Scotia  countryside  with  footage  shot  in  her  New  York 
City  studio.  In  a  voiceover,  she  reminisces  about  the 
pastoral  life,  ruminates  on  her  art-making  and  the  per- 
spective that  time  and  distance  can  provide.  The  con- 
trast of  the  locales  and  what  they  represent — that  is,  the 
romantic  vs.  the  cerebral — informs  Jonas'  aesthetic  vi- 
sion and  personal  sense  of  herself.  Stan  VanDerBeek's  A 
Newsreel  of  Dreams  (Part  2)  synthesizes  the  spectacle 
of  political  and  social  life  with  private  fantasies  in  a 
celebratory  mood  tinged  with  skepticism.  Both  of  these 
productions  reveal  how  different  sensibilities  re- 
sponded to  a  social  and  cultural  climate. 

The  works  in  Program  11  begin  to  reveal  certain 
changes  that  occurred  in  video  art  at  the  end  of  the 
1 970s.  A  younger  generation  was  starting  out  with  more 
sophisticated  equipment  than  had  been  available  to 
earlier  video  artists.  By  the  end  of  the  decade,  Bill  Viola 
became  one  of  the  foremost  artists  of  this  group.  In  a 
series  of  videotapes,  he  explored  a  complex  set  of  cog- 
nitive issues,  including  the  perception  of  sound  in  The 
Morning  after  the  Night  of  Power.  In  The  Space  be- 
tween the  Teeth,  Viola's  aesthetic  follows  a  less  reduc- 
tive and  linear  line  than  earlier  work  as  he  employs 
editing  and  other  effects  to  fill  his  images  with  more 
detail  and  create  subtle  changes  in  their  compositions. 
In  Four  Sided  Tape.  Peter  Campus  continues  to  produce 
incisive  personal  portraits,  but  without  the  chroma-key 
he  earlier  employed.  As  video  technology  became 


more  developed  and  refined.  Campus  sought  a  sim- 
pler, more  direct  performance  approach  that  yielded 
a  new  formal  rigor  and  subtle  humor.  Vjfo's  Reef,  by 
Howard  Fried,  one  of  California's  leading  performance 
artists,  is  a  complex  exploration  of  pedagogy  and 
viewer/camera  perception.  Standing  beside  a  black- 
board, the  artist  assumes  the  role  of  a  teacher  and 
addresses  the  camera,  and,  by  extension,  the  viewer. 
His  convoluted  monologue  confounds  the  viewer's  ex- 
pectation of  the  usual  sequential  flow  of  information  as 
presented  on  television. 

The  earlier  personal  documentaries,  seen  in  Pro- 
gram 10,  drew  upon  experiences  found  in  the  artist's 
local  community  and  neighborhood.  However,  as 
more  sophisticated  and  portable  equipment  permitted 
greater  flexibility,  artists  began  to  travel  and  confront 
unfamiliar  situations  that  demanded  new  responses. 
This  is  dramatically  represented  in  Program  12,  par- 
ticularly in  Juan  Downey's  Laughing  Alligator,  a  tape 
produced  during  an  extended  visit  to  the  Amazon  rain 
forest.  The  tape's  autobiographical  theme  focused  on 
the  confrontation  and  understanding  of  the  Yanomami 
Indians,  whom  Downey  and  his  family  befriended  and 
who  experienced  the  video  camera  for  the  first  time. 

The  two  other  tapes  in  Program  12  also  deal  with 
travel  experiences,  but  at  a  considerable  remove.  After 
Montgolfier,  by  Davidson  Gigliotti,  is  a  contemplative 
view  of  the  Minnesota  countryside  as  seen  from  a  hot- 
air  balloon.  One  of  a  series  of  artists'  productions  for 
public  television,  this  lyrical  tape  allows  one  to  perceive 
the  landscape  from  a  new  perspective.  The  ability  of 
video  to  offer  novel  vantages  is  pursued  in  a  radically 
different  way  in  Shalom  Gorewitz's  El  Corandero.  in 
which  "straight"  camera  images  shot  in  Spain  are  color- 
ized and  otherwise  manipulated  to  evoke  new  impres- 
sions of  the  locale.  In  all  three  of  the  works  in  this  pro- 


I 


4 


Laughing  Alligator.  1 979,  Juan  Downey 


gram,  the  artists  have  reinterpreted  the  social  and 
physical  landscape  by  visually  altering  either  the  origi- 
nal images  or  a  conventional  viewpoint. 

As  Program  13  reveals,  the  close  ol  the  decade 
brought  dramatic  developments  in  the  editing  and 
processing  capabilities  of  video,  making  possible  quick 
and  clean  edits  and  a  stable  signal  that  could  maintain 
color  and  image  quality.  As  part  oi  the  arts  program  for 
the  1980  Winter  Olympics  in  Lake  Placid,  New  York, 
video  artists  were  invited  to  produce  tapes  and  installa- 
tions. Lake  Placid  '80,  by  Nam  June  Paik,  presents  a 
treatment  ol  the  games  which  recombines  earlier  Paik 
material  with  footage  shot  at  the  Olympics  site.  The 
result  is  a  fast-paced  trip  through  the  experience  of 
sport  as  pageant  and  intense  action.  Another  video- 
tape, Olympic  Fragments,  by  Kit  Fitzgerald  and  John 
Sanborn,  uses  the  techniques  of  television  sports  cover- 


Hearts,  1979.  Barbara  Buckner. 


» 


Chott  el-Djerid  (A  Portrait  in  Light  and  Heat),  1979.  Bill  Viola. 

age  to  slow  down,  freeze,  and  reverse  action.  The 
effects  provide  a  most  vivid  sense  of  the  beauty  and 
subtlety  of  physical  action  in  sport. 

The  final  videotape  in  this  program,  Bill  Viola's  Chott 
el-Djerid  (A  Portrait  in  Light  and  Heat),  employs  a  tele- 
photo  lens  to  distort  the  viewer's  perception  of  the  land- 
scape in  a  way  that  shatters  the  illusion  of  video  space 
and  reality.  Rather  than  rely  on  special  effects,  Viola 
exploited  the  out-of-focus  quality  achieved  by  the  de- 
creased depth  of  field  peculiar  to  a  telephoto  lens. 

Program  14,  the  final  program,  returns  to  two  issues 
that  opened  the  exhibition  and  have  remained  central 
to  the  history  of  video  art:  the  interpretation  and  trans- 
formation of  television;  and  the  production  of  new  im- 
agery from  the  technology  of  video.  Dara  Birnbaum's 
Wonder  Woman  is  a  vivid  distillation  of  the  subtext  of  the 
pop  TV  icon  Wonder  Woman.  Through  rapid  editing, 
Bimbaum  employs  the  strategy  of  repetition  to  empha- 
size certain  moments  from  the  TV  show  and  concludes 
with  its  sexist  disco  theme  song.  By  isolating  these  seg- 


ments, she  attempts  to  reveal  the  sexism  implicit  in  this 
popular  commercial  show. 

The  final  three  videotapes  employ  both  basic  and 
advanced  techniques  to  show  how  the  capabilities  of 
image  processing  are  changing.  In  Sunsfone,  Ed 
Emshwiller  uses  a  sophisticated  computer  to  render  a 
complex  three-dimensional  illusion:  a  two-dimensional 
image  of  the  sun  is  transformed  into  a  three-dimen- 
sional cube.  In  its  appropriation  of  state-of-the-art 
equipment,  this  tape  foresees  much  of  video  produc- 
tion in  the  1980s.  In  contrast,  Barbara  Buckner's  Hearts, 
a  Minimalist  but  lyrical  evocation  of  the  heart  image, 
joins  the  abstract  and  representational  in  a  way  that 
reflects  less  on  other  popular  art  styles  than  on  an  in- 
tensely personal  form  of  poetic  self-expression.  The  con- 
cluding videotape,  Woody  Vasulka'sArfi/acrs,  is  a  cata- 
logue of  image  transformations  created  from  the 
linkage  of  the  computer  with  video  technology.  Seven 
years  after  Vocabulary,  the  Vasulkas — individually  and 
collectively — continued  their  exploration  of  new  visual 
terms. 

The  tapes  described  briefly  here  outline  the  first  twenty 
years  of  video  art's  history.  It  is  a  medium  that  is  con- 
stantly evolving  and  changing  through  the  aesthetics  of 
its  artists  and  the  development  of  its  technologies.  It  is 
also  a  body  of  work  that  has  yet  to  be  fully  examined, 
but  is  challenging  the  critical  and  historical  interpreta- 
tion of  twentieth-century  art.  Video  will  affect  how  we 
perceive  the  world  around  us  and  ultimately  how  we 
refashion  and  preserve  it. 


Program  1 

Videotape  Study  No.  3.  1967-69.  Jud  Yalkut  and  Nam  June  Paik. 

Black  and  white.  5  minutes. 
The  Medium  Is  the  Medium.  1969.  WGBH,  Boston  Color;  30 

minutes. 
TV  as  a  Creative  Medium.  1969.  Ira  Schneider  Black  and  white; 

13  minutes. 

Program  2 

Lip  Sync.  1969.  Bruce  Nauman.  Black  and  white.  60  minutes. 

Program  3 

Vertical  Roll,  1972.  Joan  Jonas.  Black  and  white;  20  minutes. 
Undertone.  1972.  Vito  Acconci.  Black  and  white;  30  minutes. 

Program  4 

Inventory.  1972.  John  Baldessari.  Black  and  white.  30  minutes. 

SeJecfed  Works,  Reel  4.  1972.  William  Wegman.  Black  and 

white;  20  minutes 
Three  Transitions.  1973.  Peter  Campus.  Color;  5  minutes. 

Program  5 

Television  Delivers  People.  1973.  Richard  Serra.  Color;  6 

minutes 
Global  Groove,  1973.  Nam  June  Paik  Color;  30  minutes. 
Handling  (The  Austrian  Tapes),  1974.  Douglas  Davis.  Color;  5 

minutes. 
Fourth  of  July  in  Saugerties.  1972.  Ira  Schneider  and  Beryl 

Korot  Black  and  white.  15  minutes. 

Program  6 

Scapemates,  1972.  Ed  Emshwiller.  Color;  29  minutes. 
Vocabulary,  1973.  Woody  and  Steina  Vasulka.  Color;  5  minutes. 
Underscan,  1974.  Nancy  Holt.  Black  and  white;  8  minutes. 
Female  Sensibility,  1974.  Lynda  Benglis.  Color;  14  minutes. 

Program  7 

Hark  Hork,  1973.  Frank  Gillette.  Black  and  white;  18  minutes. 
One-Eyed  Bum,  1974.  Andy  Mann.  Black  and  white;  6  minutes. 
Moving.  1974.  Juan  Downey  Black  and  white;  30  minutes. 

Program  8 

Semiotics  of  the  Kitchen.  1975.  Martha  Rosier.  Black  and  white; 

7  minutes. 
Children's  Tapes:  A  Selection.  1974.  Terry  Fox.  Black  and  white; 

30  minutes. 
Boomerang.  1974.  Richard  Serra.  Color;  10  minutes. 
Running  Outburst.  1975.  Charlemagne  Palestine.  Black  and 

white;  8  minutes. 

Program  9 

Video  Ecotopia,  1975.  Stephen  Beck.  Color,  5  minutes. 
Media  Burn.  1975.  Ant  Farm.  Color;  25  minutes. 
Birth  of  an  Industry.  1977.  TVTV.  Color;  18  minutes. 

Program  10 

/  Want  to  Live  in  the  Country  (And  Other  Romances).  1976. 

Joan  Jonas.  Color;  30  minutes. 
A  Newsreel  of  Dreams  (Part  2).  1976.  Stan  VanDerBeek  Color; 

24  minutes. 

Program  1 1 

Four  Sided  Tape.  1976.  Peter  Campus.  Color;  3  minutes. 

The  Space  between  the  Teeth,  1976  Bill  Viola.  Color;  9  minutes 

The  Morning  after  thv  Night  of  Power.  1977.  Bill  Viola.  Color;  10 

minutes. 
Vito'sReef.  1978.  Howard  Fried.  Color.  34  minutes. 


Program  12 

Laughing  Alligator.  1979.  Juan  Downey  Color;  29  minutes. 
After  Montgolfier,  1979  Davidson  Gigliotti.  Color;  10  minutes. 
El  Corandero.  1979.  Shalom  Gorewitz.  Color;  6  minutes. 

Program  13 

Lake  Placid  W.  1980.  Nam  June  Paik.  Color;  4  minutes. 
Olympic  Fragments.  1980.  Kit  Fitzgerald  and  John  Sanborn. 

Color;  10  minutes. 
Chott  el-Djerid  (A  Portrait  in  Light  and  Heat).  1979.  Bill  Viola. 

Color;  28  minutes. 

Program  14 

Wonder  Woman,  1979.  Dara  Birnbaum.  Color;  7  minutes. 
Sunsfone.  1979.  Ed  Emshwiller.  Color;  3  minutes. 
Hearts.  1979.  Barbara  Buckner.  Color;  12  minutes. 
Artifacts.  1980.  Woody  Vasulka.  Color;  22  minutes. 


Selected  Bibliography 

The  bibliography  is  arranged  chronologically  Much  of  the  crit- 
icism in  the  1970s  was  concerned  with  establishing  video  as  an 
avant-garde  art  form;  the  more  recent  literature  examines  video 
from  a  historical  perspective 

Youngblood.  Gene.  Expanded  Cinema.  New  York:  E.P.  Dutton, 
1970. 

Shamberg,  Michael,  and  Raindance  Corporation.  Guerrilla  Tele- 
vision. New  York:  Holt,  Rinehart,  and  Winston,  1971. 

Barnouw,  Erik.  Tube  of  Plenty:  The  Evolution  of  American  Tele- 
vision. New  York:  Oxiord  University  Press,  1975. 

Schneider,  Ira,  and  Beryl  Korot  Video  Art;  An  Anthology  New 
York:  Harcourt,  Brace,  Jovanovich,  1976. 

Davis,  Douglas,  and  Allison  Simmons,  eds.  The  New  Television:  A 
Public/Private  Art.  Cambridge,  Massachusetts:  The  MIT.  Press, 
1977. 

Battcock  Gregory,  ed.  New  Artists  Video:  A  Critical  Anthology- 
New  York:  E.P.  Dutton,  1978. 

Hanhardt,  John.  Nam  June  Paik.  New  York:  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art,  New  York,  in  association  with  WW.  Norton,  1982. 

Furlong,  Lucinda.  "Notes  toward  a  History  of  Image-Processed 
Video:  Eric  Siegel,  Stephen  Beck,  Dan  Sandin.  Steve  Rutt.  Bill 
and  Louise  Etra."  Afterimage.  1 1  (Summer  1983),  pp.  35-38. 

Gever.  Martha.  "Video  Politics:  Early  Feminist  Projects."  After- 
image. 11  (Summer  1983),  pp.  25-27. 

Goldman,  Debra.  "A  Decade  of  Building  an  Alternative  Move- 
ment." The  Independent.  6  (September  1983),  pp.  18-24,  30. 

Furlong,  Lucinda.  "Notes  toward  a  History  of  Image-Processed 
Video:  Steina  and  Woody  Vasulka."  Afterimage,  1 1  (December 
1983),  pp.  12-17. 

Sturken,  Marita.  "An  Interview  with  George  Stoney"  Afterimage,  1 1 
(January  1984),  pp.  7-11. 

"TV  as  a  Creative  Medium:  Howard  Wise  and  Video 

Art."  Afterimage.  1 1  (May  1984),  pp.  5-9. 


Film  and  Video  Department 

Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Copyright  <S)  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 


lutaey  Museum  c     mericanAr 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 


EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND  VIDEO 


NUMBER    1 


Roger  Welch 


September  22-October  24, 1982 


Drive-in:  Second  Feature ,  1982.  Film  installation 
On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  September  30,  at  2:00 
Roger  Welch  will  be  present 


Since  its  invention  in  the  late  nineteenth  century,  film  has 
been  the  preeminent  medium  for  the  creation  of  moving 
images.  But  today  the  electronic  technologies  of  video  and 
broadcast  television  are  challenging  its  dominance.  These 
new  mass  media  are  having  an  impact  on  all  areas  of  film: 
production,  distribution,  and  aesthetics. 

Our  central  experience  of  film  has  been  social.  Whether 
a  commercially  popular  entertainment  feature  or  an  avant- 
garde  work,  a  film  is  generally  viewed  in  a  theater  — a 
collective  experience.  This  condition  of  the  cinematic  ex- 
perience is  in  marked  contrast  to  the  more  private  home 
environment  of  television.  Here  the  rapidly  developing 
concept  of  the  home  entertainment  center,  designed  to  re- 
ceive cable  and  satellite  programs  and  play  videotapes 
acguired  by  the  viewer,  is  becoming  an  alternative  to  the 
theatrical  experience  of  filmgoing. 

Roger  Welch's  installation  Drive-in:  Second  Feature  re- 
flects on  the  popular  mythology  that  has  grown  up  around 
the  social  act  of  "going  to  the  movies."  This  project  derives 
from  Welch's  earlier  works,  which  comment  on  the  iconog- 
raphy and  the  rituals  that  give  popular  culture  its  power. 

The  layers  of  irony  that  inform  Drive-in  include  the  ar- 
chaic appearance  of  the  Cadillac  and  the  drive-in's  screen. 
The  drive-in  epitomizes  the  effort  of  movie  exhibitors  in  the 
1950s  to  create  new  ways  of  showing  films  so  as  to  retain  au- 
diences beginning  to  be  lured  away  by  television.  The 
theater  became  a  parking  lot,  with  the  rows  of  cars  forming 
their  own  communities  within  and  between  themselves. 


Drive-In,  1980.  Film  installation  at  P.S.  1,  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban 
Resources,  Long  Island  City,  New  York.  Photograph  by  D.  James  Dee. 


Drive-In.  1980.  Film  installation  at  P.S.  1,  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban 
Resources,  Long  Island  City,  New  York.  Photograph  by  D.  James  Dee. 


The  1958  Cadillac  now  appears  to  us,  amid  a  changing 
world  economy,  as  a  relic  of  the  distant  past.  Thus  Welch's 
transformation  of  the  car  and  screen  into  symbols  of  "Amer- 
ican culture . . .  created  as  if  by  a  Micronesian  cargo  cult  or 
a  contemporary  Robinson  Crusoe,"  through  the  strategy  of 
re-creating  their  forms  out  of  twigs  and  branches,  is  partic- 
ularly apt.  Drive-in:  Second  Feature  also  represents  an 
important  aspect  of  the  recent  history  of  film  as  an  art  form: 
the  development  of  installation  works  which  treat  film  not 
as  theater  but  as  a  sculptural  and  multimedia  environment . 
Thus  this  latest  project  extends  Welch's  previous  works  as 
it  reflects  on  the  changing  cultural,  and  social,  experience 
of  watching  film. 

Drive-In:  Second  Feature  appears  like  a  totemic  sign  of 
the  industrial,  mechanical  age  of  the  motion  picture  and 
the  automobile,  which  is  passing  as  new  electronic  tech- 
nologies emerge,  altering  our  way  of  life  and  our  forms  of 
entertainment  and  art-making.  The  future  of  film  and  tele- 
vision, as  we  know  them,  is  open.  Roger  Welch's  elegant 
work  contemplates  film  from  a  double  perspective,  seeing 
it  as  both  a  theatrical  and  an  installation  medium. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Drive-in:  Second  Feature,  1982 

The  drive-in  movie  theater  is  a  particularly  American  phe- 
nomenon that  could  be  considered  a  symbol  of  the  post- 
World  War  II  United  States.  Drive-ins  are  now  disappear- 
ing, along  with  the  giant  cars  of  the  1950s  that  brought 
the  crowds  to  them. 

One  such  car  was  the  Cadillac.  The  Cadillac  became  a 
symbol  of  affluence,  a  Rolls-Royce  for  the  American  upper 
middle  class.  The  owner  of  a  Cadillac  Eldorado  identified 
not  only  with  the  comfort  of  a  low-to-the-ground325-horse- 
power  ride,  but  also  with  the  audacious  design,  a  style  that 
stood  for  the  power  of  aerodynamics. 

In  Drive-In:  Second  Feature  these  two  symbols  of  Amer- 
ican culture  are  created  as  if  by  a  Micronesian  cargo  cult  or 
a  contemporary  Robinson  Crusoe.  Both  the  familiar  drive- 
in  screen  and  a  1958  Cadillac  are  done  in  the  most  primitive 
manner  with  some  of  the  most  common  materials,  twigs  and 
branches  tied  together  with  twine.  What  seems  to  have  been 
discovered  in  the  jungle  is  now  brought  back,  to  be  dis- 
played in  a  museum.  Along  with  the  drive-in  screen  are 
projected  fragments  of  what  was  once  shown  on- it,  like 
pieces  of  a  broken  artifact  an  archeologist  would  put  back 
together  again. 

Drive-In:  Second  Feature  is  the  product  of  an  archeo- 
logical  expedition  into  contemporary  America. 

Roger  Welch 


Biography 

Roger  Welch,  who  was  born  in  Westfield,  New  Jersey,  in  1946,  studied 
painting  and  sculpture  at  Miami  University  in  Oxford,  Ohio;  Kent  State 
University;  and  the  School  of  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  where  he  re- 
ceived an  M.F.A.  in  1971.  His  work  in  a  wide  range  of  media  — sculpture, 
drawing,  performance,  film,  video,  and  photography  — explores  the  con- 
cerns of  Conceptual  and  Process  art.  One  of  his  major  interests  has  been 
the  process  of  memory  and  its  ability  to  make  "memory  maps"  and  "photo 
memory  works";  he  has  lately  been  involved  in  recycling  and  restructur- 
ing objects  and  forms  which  have  become  symbols  within  society.  Welch's 
works  are  included  in  numerous  private  and  museum  collections,  among 
them  the  Museo  de  Arte  Contemporaneo  Internacional  Rufino  Tamayo  in 
Mexico  City;  the  Georgia  Museum  of  Art  at  the  University  of  Georgia, 
Athens;  and  the  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York.  He  lives  in  New  York. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Sonnabend  Gallery,  New  York,  1972;  John  Gibson  Gallery,  New  York, 
1973;  Milwaukee  Art  Center,  1974;  Stefanotti  Gallery,  New  York,  1975; 
Albright-Knox  Art  Gallery,  Buffalo,  1977;  Museo  de  Arte  Moderno, 
Mexico  City,  1980;  P.S.  1,  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban  Resources,  Long 
Island  City,  New  York,  1981;  Museo  de  Bellas  Arte,  Caracas,  1981. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Kassel,  West  Germany,  Documenta  5,  1972;  John  F.  Kennedy  Center  for 
the  Performing  Arts,  Washington,  D.C.,  "Art  Now  74,"  1974;  Wallraf- 
Richartz-Museum,  Cologne,  West  Germany,  "Projekt  74,"  1974;  Akade- 
mie  der  Kiinste,  West  Berlin,  "SoHo  Manhattan,"  1976;  Kassel,  West  Ger- 
many, Documenta  6,  1977;  Contemporary  Arts  Museum,  Houston, 
"American  Narrative  Art,  1967-77,"  1978;  The  Clocktower,  Institute  for 
Art  and  Urban  Resources,  New  York,  "Film  as  Installation,"  1980;  The 
New  Museum,  New  York,  "Alternatives  in  Retrospect:  An  Historical  Over- 
view, 1969-1975,"  1981;  Helen  Foresman  Spencer  Museum  of  Art,  Uni- 
versity of  Kansas,  Lawrence,  "Four  Artists  and  the  Map  — Jasper  Johns, 
Nancy  Graves,  Roger  Welch,  and  Richard  Long,"  1981. 


<  V 


Drawings  for  Drive-In:  Second  Feature,  1982.  Ink  on  paper,  14  x  17  inches 
each.  Collection  of  the  artist. 


M»tC    C    ItMMJ,  OiMCf,*  BIA»<||[ 


Selected  Bibliography 

Apple,  Jackie.  Alternatives  in  Retrospect:  An  Historical  Overview 
1969-1975  (exhibition  catalogue).  New  York:  The  New  Museum, 
1981,  pp.  12,20,  30,  35. 

Collins,  James.  "Reviews:  Roger  Welch,  John  Gibson  Gallery. "Artforum , 
12  (April  1974),  pp.  78-79. 

Davis,  Douglas.  Art  Culture:  Essays  on  thefbst-Modern.  New  York:  Har- 
per &  Row,  Publishers,  Inc.,  1977,  p.  36. 

Naylon,  Colin,  and  Genesis  Porridge.  Contemporary  Artists.  London: 
St.  James  Press  Ltd.,  1977,  pp.  1034-35. 

Popper,  Frank.  Art:  Action  and  Participation.  New  York:  New  York  Uni- 
versity Press,  1975,  pp.  259-61,  263. 

Rice,  Shelley.  "Reviews:  Roger  Welch,  P.  S.  1."  Artforum,  19  (March 
1981),  pp.  88-89. 

Roger  Welch,  1970-1980  (exhibition  catalogue).  Mexico  City:  Museo  de 
Arte  Moderno,  1980. 

Schjeldahl,  Peter.  "Let's  Not  Read  Narrative  Art  Too  Seriously." New  York 
Times,  December  8,  1974,  Arts  and  Leisure  section,  p.  35. 

Sky,  Allison,  and  Michelle  Stone.  Unbuilt  America.  New  York:  McGraw- 
Hill  Book  Company,  1976,  pp.  9,  250. 

Smith,  Phillip.  "Roger  Welch  and  the  Sculpture  of  Memory."  Arts  Mag- 
azine, 50  (October  1975),  pp.  57-59. 

Smith,  Roberta.  "Reviews:  Roger  Welch,  John  Gibson  Gallery."  Artforum, 
12  (December  1973),  p.  83. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours 

Tuesday  1 1 :00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


« 


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Copyright  c  1982  by  the  Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art,  945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Leandro  Katz 


November  2-December  5,  1982 


The  Judas  Window,  1982.  Film  installation 

On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  November  18,  at  2:00 
Leandro  Katz  will  be  present 


Works  in  the  installation: 

Achatinella  Series,  1982.  26  shells  and  40  Cibachrome 
photographs  in  wood  display  case  with  hinged  lid: 
display  case,  33  x  86  x  34  inches;  display-case  lid, 
86  x  34  inches 

Black  Maria,  1982.  Black  and  red  canvas  over  wood 
frame,  120  x  90  x  90  inches  (maximum) 

Fridays  Footprint,  1982.  Slide  projector,  color  35mm 
slide,  sandbox,  sand,  and  synthetic  polymer:  sandbox, 
4  x  55  x  25  inches 

Judas  Curtain,  1982.  Velvet,  metallic  powder,  and 
adhesive,  19  feet  x  100  inches 

The  Judas  Window,  1982.  Color  16mm  film  loop,  silent; 
17-minute  cycle 

Parasol,  1982.  Bamboo,  string,  brass,  steel,  and  color 
Xeroxes,  100  inches  (diameter)  x  100  inches  (stem) 

Credits: 

Production:  Victor  Alzamora,  Seth  Dembar.  Additional  assistance: 
Barbara  Breedon,  Juan  Julian  Caicedo,  Robin  Ticho.  Installation: 
Victor  Alzamora,  Seth  Dembar.  Installation  coordinator:  Barbara 
Breedon.  Special-effects  opticals:  David  Fain.  Film  printing:  Multi- 
Color  Film  Labs,  Inc.  Film  titles:  Rohl  Titles.  Cibachrome  printing: 
John  Bermingham.  Crickets:  Fish  &  Cheeps 


The  most  widely  held  critical  definition  of  film  has  been 
grounded  in  the  idea  that  this  photographic  medium  re- 
cords reality  on  celluloid.  This  definition  derives  from  the 
way  still  photography  was  first  understood  after  its  inven- 
tion in  the  nineteenth  century:  it  appeared  to  achieve  the 
long-sought  goal  of  reproducing  the  real  world.  As  a  result, 
photography —  and,  later,  film  — seemed  to  release  the  tra- 
ditional arts  of  painting  and  sculpture  from  the  burden  of 
mimesis. 

Leandro  Katz,  in  his  film  installation  The  Judas  Window, 
asks  if  the  photographic  process,  whether  still  or  motion 
picture,  is  truly  mimetic.  By  placing  film  in  unexpected 
relationships  with  other  media  and  materials,  he  mixes  dif- 
ferent, often  contradictory,  modes  of  discourse.  Thus  his 
film  — presenting,  for  example,  a  shot  of  the  moon  intercut 
with  enigmatic  phrases  such  as  "A  Cinematographic  Rain" 
and  "The  Urge  to  Save"  — is  viewed  within  an  environment 


of  sculptural  objects,  including  a  large  parasol  covered 
with  Xeroxed  pages  from  classic  adventure  stories,  among 
them  Daniel  Defoe's  Robinson  Crusoe,  and  a  house-like 
construction  modeled  on  the  famous  Black  Maria  studio,  in 
which  Thomas  Edison  produced  his  first  films,  in  the  late 
nineteenth  century.  Other  elements  in  Katz's  installation 
include  a  slide  of  a  Mayan  carving  projected  onto  the  gal- 
lery wall;  a  display  case  holding  a  collection  of  twenty-six 
shells,  each  signifying  one  letter  of  the  alphabet  and  to- 
gether composing  a  linguistic  code;  and,  on  the  floor,  a 
sandbox  with  Friday's  footprint.  These  diverse  elements 
reguire  different  —  perhaps  mutually  exclusive  — modes  of 
comprehension,  and  demonstrate  how  problematic  mime- 
sis can  be.  The  installation  thus  becomes  a  complex  text 
about  epistemology,  film,  and  the  history  of  cultural  forms 
—  an  archeological  site  at  which  to  unearth  the  hidden 
premises  of  understanding  and  perception. 

Two  precedents,  one  a  work  of  literature,  the  other  the 
tradition  of  film  installation  as  an  art  form,  inform  Katz's 
project.  The  literary  text  is  Impressions  d'Airique  (1910), 
by  the  French  author  and  playwright  Raymond  Roussel. 
Roussel's  influential  text  is  an  extraordinary  catalogue  of 
descriptions  of  objects  and  devices,  people  and  events, 
held  together  by  a  loose  plot.  Its  structure  is  based  on  an 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


elaborate  system  of  word  games  and  associations  that  es- 
tablishes a  compelling  narrative.  So  too  in  Katz's  installation 
the  viewer  joins  and  links  the  various  elements  into  a  net- 
work of  associations  that  implies  a  possible  narrative. 

As  for  Katz's  sources  within  the  film  medium,  during  the 
1960s  and  1970s  artists  began  to  remove  film  from  the  tradi- 
tional theater  setting  and  place  it  in  a  gallery  or  another 
environment.  They  have  produced  films  designed  to  be 
projected  into  steam  or  onto  different  surfaces  and  within 
specially  constructed  environments,  to  be  viewed  with  live 
dancing  or  other  performances,  or  in  conjunction  with 
sculptural  structures.  All  of  these  varied  forms  and  process- 
es, as  in  The  Judas  Window,  cause  us  to  reevaluate  the  na- 
ture of  film:  it  does  not  present  an  unchanging  segment  of 
reality,  viewed  and  interpreted  exclusively  within  the  con- 
fines of  the  screen;  rather,  film  is  a  temporal,  flexible,  mov- 
ing-image medium  that  can  be  read  in  different  ways,  de- 
pending on  its  physical  placement  and  aesthetic  context. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  Judas  Window,  1982 

My  work  addresses  the  underlying  structures  that  are  pres- 
ent in  every  cultural  gesture  and  form  the  way  we  think  and 
make  connections  between  notions.  The  Judas  Window,  an 
installation  of  individual  works  — contiguous  and  inter- 
changeable episodes  —  treats  the  gallery  space  in  the  terms 
of  an  active  movement  of  search  inside  a  narrative  chamber. 
In  it,  space  is  sudden,  as  in  dreams,  and  all  its  functioning 
parts  are  engaged  simultaneously.  And  space  is  also  se- 
guential,  proposing  a  theatricality  typical  of  cinema.  Upon 
entering  the  gallery,  as  entering  the  screen,  the  spectator/ 
viewer  is  asked  to  inguire  and  to  elucidate  a  seguence  of 
chained  revelations,  theanthological  (dismembered)  parts 
of  a  floating  plot.  One  could  say  that  in  the  end  the  work 
leaves  a  trail  of  connecting  dots,  and  that  this  trail  is  what 
one  would  follow  in  attempting  to  find  the  way  inside  a  dark- 
ened room  which  is  completely  familiar.  Then,  the  elements 
of  the  installation  — nature  and  history,  the  alphabet,  the 
text,  the  body  —  all  point  to  the  instant  when  language  is  dis- 
covered, when  the  senses  come  in  contact  with  language, 
that  precise  moment  when  the  system  clicks  and  everything 
brightens  up.  Therefore  my  work  exists  inside  a  very  tran- 
sitory position  between  the  senses  and  the  intellect,  be- 
tween nature  and  culture,  attempting  to  make  sense  within 
the  ruins  of  both. 

Leandro  Katz 


Biography 

Leandro  Katz,  who  was  born  in  Buenos  Aires  in  1938,  has  lived  and  worked 
in  New  York  City  since  1965.  He  is  well  known  as  a  visual  artist,  filmmaker, 
and  writer;  his  books  include  the  novel  Es  Una  Ola  (Buenos  Aires,  1968) 
and  Self-Hipnosis  (New  York,  1975),  an  artist's  book.  Katz  is  currently  cu- 
rator of  film  installations  at  P.S.  1,  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban  Resources, 
Long  Island  City,  New  York.  He  also  teaches  in  the  Humanities  and  Art 
History  departments  of  the  School  of  Visual  Arts,  New  York,  and  is  on  the 
faculty  of  the  Semiotics  Program  of  Brown  University,  Providence,  Rhode 
Island,  where  he  teaches  film.  Katz  is  currently  working  on  a  feature-length 
film,  Mirror  on  the  Moon,  for  ZDF,  a  West  German  television  station. 


Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Millennium  Film  Workshop,  New  York,  1977;  Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of 
Modern  Art,  New  York,  1978;  John  Gibson  Gallery,  New  York,  1978;  The 
Clocktower,  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban  Resources,  New  York,  1980;  The 
Collective  for  Living  Cinema,  New  York,  1980;  P.S.  1,  Institute  for  Art  and 
Urban  Resources,  Long  Island  City,  New  York,  1982 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  Downtown  Branch,  New  York,  "Words," 
1977;  John  Gibson  Gallery,  New  York,  "Structure,"  1978,  "Structure  II," 
1979;  The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  Amer- 
ican Art,  "Allen  Coulter/Leandro  Katz,"  1979;  The  Clocktower,  Institute 
for  Art  and  Urban  Resources,  New  York,  "Film  as  Installation,"  1980;  Elise 
Meyer  Inc.,  New  York,  "Schemes,"  1981 


Selected  Bibliography 

Ashton,  Dore.  American  Art  Since  1945.  New  York:  Oxford  University 
Press,  1982,  pp.  193-94. 

Castle,  Ted.  "Verbal  Art  Speaks  Up."  Flash  Art,  November  1980,  pp.  27- 
30. 

Kosarinsky,  Edgardo.  Jorge  Luis  Borges:  Sur  le  cinema.  Paris:  Albatros, 
1979,  pp.  152-58. 

Pipolo,  Tony.  "The  Films  of  Leandro  Katz."  Millennium  Film  Journal ,  Fall- 
Winter  1980-81,  pp.  265-72. 

Reynaud,  Berenice.  "Un  Petit  Dictionnaire  du  cinema  independant  New 
Yorkais."  Cahiers  du  cinema,  September  1982,  pp.  48-50. 


Selected  Filmography 

Los  Angeles  Station ,  1976.  Color,  16mm,  silent;  10  minutes 

fhris  Has  Changed  Alot,  1977.  Color,  16mm,  sound;  30  minutes.  Music 
by  Richard  Landry 

Splits,  1978.  Color,  16mm,  sound;  30  minutes 

Moon  Notes,  1980.  Color,  16mm,  silent;  15  minutes 

The  Visit  (Foreign  Fbrticles),  1980.  Seguence  of  1,200  35mm  black-and- 
white  slides,  with  synchronized  sound;  75  minutes 

Metropotamia ,  1982.  Color,  16mm,  sound,  for  2  projectors  and  zigzag 
screen;  20  minutes 

Leandro  Katz's  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers'  Cooperative,  New 
York. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours 

Tuesday  11:00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyrlghl  °  1982  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art     '* 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Ideology/Praxis 


December  10-19,  1982 


Daily  at  12:00,  1:30,  3:00,  4:30;  also  Tuesday  at  6:00 


Videotapes  in  the  program: 


Isaac  Cronin  and  Terrel  Seltzer 

Call  It  Sleep,  1982.  Color,  3A  inch,  sound;  42  minutes 
Written,  produced,  and  directed  by  Isaac  Cronin  and 
Terrel  Seltzer.  Narrated  by  Bruce  Parry.  Edited  by 
Don  Ahrens. 


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Judith  Barry 

Casual  Shopper,  1981.  Color,  Va  inch,  sound; 

28  minutes 

Written  and  directed  by  Judith  Barry.  Camera:  Jeff 

Handler.  Sound  design  and  mix  by  Andy  Wiskes  and 

Dan  Gleich.  Starring  Harriet  Payne  and  Bill  Shields. 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  December  16,  at  2:40 
Judith  Barry  will  be  present 


There  has  emerged  in  recent  years  a  renewed  interest  on 
the  part  of  video  artists  in  forms  of  narrative.  One  aspect  of 
this  new  narrative  video  is  represented  by  Isaac  Cronin 
and  Terrel  Seltzer's  Call  It  Sleep  and  Judith  Barry's  Casual 
Shopper.  These  artists  and  others  employ  narrative  to  ex- 
amine the  ideological  controls  operating  within  the  cultural 
institutions  of  our  society.  They  have  incorporated  various 
narrative  strategies  from  films  (such  as  those  of  Jean-Luc 
Godard)  and  literature  (the  novels  of  Alain  Robbe-Grillet) 
and  political  theory  from  the  writings  of  Louis  Althusser, 
Michel  Foucault,  and  others.  Their  videotapes  expose  with- 
in the  narrative  the  links  between  capitalism  and  such  in- 
stitutions as  commercial  broadcast  television.  Thus  these 
artists  attempt  to  show  the  social  and  class  dynamics  within 
our  culture  and  indicate  how  various  styles  of  taste  and 
consumption  are  tied  to  the  interests  of  the  state  and  its 
dominant  forms  of  cultural  discourse. 

A  prime  concern  of  this  new  body  of  work  is  the  exami- 
nation of  broadcast  television:  a  confrontation  with  the  role 
that  the  all-pervasive  mass  medium  of  television  plays  in 
packaging  a  world  view  — an  ideology  — for  the  consumer 
by  appropriating  television's  practices  — its  strategies  of 
discourse.  These  video  artists  undertake  a  radical  critigue 
of  network  television  by  manipulating  the  codes  that  it  has 
evolved  to  differentiate  advertisements,  documentary, 
news,  and  entertainment  programming.  This  interplay  be- 
tween code  and  message  creates  a  problematic  text  of  great 
subtlety  and  inventiveness. 

Isaac  Cronin  and  Terrel  Seltzer's  Call  It  Sleep  takes  as 
its  point  of  departure  the  Situationist  view  of  Western  cul- 
ture and  society  as  spectacle,  and  thus  of  the  various  social 
and  ideological  systems  that  have  shaped  our  modes  of 
thought  and  political  action.  The  Situationist  movement, 
which  arose  in  the  late  1950s,  was  comprised  of  politically 
committed  avant-garde  groups  in  Europe  concerned  with 
developing  a  critigue  of  contemporary  society  and  of  in- 
stitutional forms  of  political  opposition,  including  the  major 
political  parties  which  have  traditionally  defined  the  left. 
The  confrontational  tactics  of  the  Situationists,  including 
street  action,  were  to  influence  the  events  leading  to  the 
May  1968  protests  in  France.  The  narration  of  Cronin  and 
Seltzer's  videotape  is  based  on  interpretations  of  Situation- 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


ist  manifestos  and  programs.  This  analysis  is  juxtaposed 
with  sequences  from  motion  pictures  and  scripted  scenes 
manipulated  to  expose  the  contradictions  between  mod- 
ernist forms  of  culture  and  the  capitalist  society  that  sup- 
ports them. 

Judith  Barry's  Casual  Shopper  takes  a  different  approach 
by  targeting  consumer  society,  specifically  the  architecture 
of  the  shopping  mall  and  the  strategies  of  the  television 
commercial.  The  shopping  mall  becomes  the  location  for 
Barry's  narrative  as  the  performers  negotiate  their  relation- 
ships and  affect  poses  within  the  commercial  spaces  of  the 
mall.  The  contradiction  between  television  as  a  mass  medi- 
um and  the  radical  videotape  which  seeks  to  appropriate 
its  working  methods  is  the  subtext  of  Barry's  work.  She  ex- 
amines the  impact  of  consumerism  and  television  on  both 
our  private  spaces— the  home,  where  TV  is  watched— and 
our  public  shopping  spaces. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Call  It  Sleep,  1982 

Call  It  Sleep  is  the  first  visual  work  produced  in  the  United 
States  which  makes  use  of  the  Situationist  technique  of 
detournement —the  devaluation  and  reuse  of  present  and 
past  cultural  production  to  form  a  superior  theoretical  and 
practical  unity. 

Call  It  Sleep  is  based  on  material  drawn  from  the  most 
prevalent  means  of  social  conditioning  — television— for 
two  reasons.  Familiar  images  easily  acquire  a  strong  nega- 
tive charge  when  linked  with  a  subversive  content.  And 
using  images  and  techniques  available  to  everyone  has 
demonstrated,  once  and  for  all,  that  detournement  is  with- 
in the  reach  of  anyone  with  a  few  basic  appliances  and  the 
ability  to  communicate  radical  ideas. 

Some  people  who  see  Call  It  Sleep  are  only  interested  to 
know  if  copyright  permissions  have  been  obtained  from  the 
producers  of  the  various  images  in  the  tape.  These  "coura- 
geous souls"  think  that  a  disrespect  for  cultural  and  social 
conventions  should  begin  after  property  rights  have  been 
observed. 

Call  It  Sleep  was  completed  in  May  of  1982.  It  was  fi- 
nanced solely  by  its  makers. 

Isaac  Cronin 
Terrel  Seltzer 

Biography 

Isaac  Cronin  and  Terrel  Seltzer  collaborated  as  co-writers  on  Chan  Is 
Missing  (1982),  a  film  by  Wayne  Wang.  Terrel  Seltzer's  film  The  Story  of 
Anna  O.  (1979)  was  shown  in  the  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  in  the 
program  'The  Freudian  Text"  in  December  1980.  Cronin  and  Seltzer  pres- 
ently live  and  work  in  San  Francisco.  Call  It  Sleep  is  their  first  videotape; 
it  was  screened  in  September  1982  at  the  Roxie  Cinema  in  San  Francisco 
and  the  Pacific  Film  Archive  in  Berkeley. 


Casual  Shopper,  1981 

Shopping  is  an  activity  that  consists  of  predictable  yet  in- 
determinate activities,  where,  like  the  cinema,  what  we  go 
to  experience  over  and  over  again  is  our  own  desire.  This 
activity  constructs  a  particular  subject  within  a  specific 
terrain,  the  mall  or  store,  where  a  number  of  forces  are 
mediated  by  the  individual  as  he  or  she  participates  in  the 
experience,  including  the  complex  drives  at  work  in  the 
individual  psyche  as  well  as  the  social  imperatives  of  the 
television  commercial. 

Television  commercials  are  viewed  on  TV  sets  in  the 
home.  Shopping  takes  place  in  a  space  specifically  con- 
structed for  that  purpose.  Just  as  theaters  are  constructed 
to  make  possible  specific  spectator  relations  with  the  film 
through  the  use  of  frontal  and  fixed  perspective,  darkness, 
and  the  placement  of  the  projector  behind  the  audience, 
so  stores  are  designed  to  produce  specific  effects  within 
the  consumer,  through  the  use  of  endless  corridors  filled 
with  objects  for  free  libidinal  access,  set  design,  and  grid 
lighting.  Of  course,  there  are  fundamental  differences  be- 
tween the  movie  spectator  and  the  shopper.  The  shopper  is 
not  stationary,  but  is  constantly  moving  and  does  not  iden- 
tify with  the  objects  in  the  store  in  the  same  way  as  with  the 
characters  on  the  screen.  But,  they  are  linked  in  several 
crucial  ways  through  the  process  of  looking  that  must  be 
brought  to  both  occasions  to  activate  desire  —  the  spectator 
sits  and  the  film  does  its  work,  the  shopper  moves  and  the 
store  comes  to  life.  Casual  Shopper  is  about,  but  certainly 
does  not  exhaust,  some  of  these  relations.  (For  a  more  de- 
tailed discussion,  see  my  article  "Casual  Imagination"  in 
Discourse,  no.  4,  Winter  1981-82.) 

Judith  Barry 

Biography 

Judith  Barry,  who  was  born  in  Columbus,  Ohio,  in  1949,  attended  the 
University  of  Florida,  where  she  received  a  B.S.  in  Finance  and  Archi- 
tecture and  a  B.  A.  in  Fine  Arts  in  1972.  Barry  moved  to  San  Francisco  in 
1977,  where,  in  addition  to  working  in  broadcast  television  and  the  film 
industry,  she  became  known  for  her  work  in  performance  art,  videotapes, 
artists'  books,  photography,  and  environmental  installations.  She  has  pub- 
lished a  number  of  articles  on  art  and  theory,  including  "Casual  Imagina- 
tion," an  analysis  of  the  architecture  of  shopping  spaces.  Barry  moved  to 
New  York  City  in  September  1982,  and  is  currently  teaching  in  the  Visual 
Arts  Department  at  the  State  University  of  New  York,  College  at  Purchase. 
She  is  an  editor  of  Discourse  magazine,  published  in  Berkeley.  She  will 
have  a  work  included  in  the  upcoming  exhibition  "Scenes  and  Conven- 
tions: Artists'  Architecture,"  opening  in  March  1983  at  the  Institute  of 
Contemporary  Arts,  London. 

Videography 

Kaleidoscope,  1977.  Color,  3A  inch,  sound;  50  minutes 

They  Agape,  1979.  Double  projection  system,  black  and  white,  3A  inch, 

sound;  30  minutes 

Casual  Shopper,  1981.  Color,  3/«  inch,  sound;  28  minutes 

Space  Invaders,  1982.  Color,  3A  inch,  sound;  5  minutes 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

Wednesday  Saturday  11:00-6:00,  Sunday  12:00-6:00 
Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  c  1982  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art     ' 
The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Ed  Emshwiller 


Dec.  23, 1982 -Jan. 16,  1983 


Passes,  1982.  Video  installation 

On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  December  23,  at  2:00 
Ed  Emshwiller  will  be  present 


Passes,  a  four-monitor  installation,  is  comprised  of 
four  3/4-inch  videotapes,  each  with  a  total  running 
time  of  25  minutes.  The  work  contains  the  following 
short  four-channel  pieces,  shown  in  seguence: 

Space  Passes,  1981.  Color,  sound;  6  minutes.  Voice: 
Kathy  McCord;  percussion:  M.  B.  Gordy 

Vascular  Passes,  1982.  Color,  sound;  5  minutes.  Sound 
source:  Marsha  Carrington 

Cut  Passes,  1981.  Color,  sound;  5  minutes.  Saxophone: 
James  Rohrig;  conch  shell:  Rand  Steiger 

Pan  Passes,  1982.  Color,  sound;  6  minutes.  Dancers: 
Kate  Foley,  Leslie  Gaumer,  Anne  Sotelo,  Janet  Welsh; 
musicians:  Rob  Chavez,  Merry  Dermehy,  Kevin 
Graves,  Amy  Knoles,  Jim  Snodgrass 

Echo  Passes,  1979-82.  Color,  sound;  3  minutes.  Per- 
former: Peter  Emshwiller 

Technical  assistance: 

JohnRauh,  DrewNaumann,  Jim  Gable,  J.T.  Moore  (California  Institute 
of  the  Arts,  Valencia);  Charles  Langrall,  James  Cossa  (Chicago  Edit- 
ing Center);  Garland  Stern  (New  York  Institute  of  Technology);  Gary 
Dunham  (Henry  Mayo  Newhall  Memorial  Hospital,  Valencia,  California) 

Ed  Emshwiller  has  secured  a  place  in  the  history  of  video 
art  as  both  artist  and  teacher.  He  came  to  video  from  film, 
in  which  he  had  established  himself  as  part  of  the  Ameri- 
can avant-garde  with  such  works  as  Relativity  (1966)  and 
Image,  Flesh  and  Voice  (1969).  His  collaboration  with  cho- 
reographers and  dancers  in  many  of  these  early  films  was 
distinctive.  He  continued  these  collaborations  in  his  video 
work  with  even  more  dramatic  results  in  a  series  of  produc- 
tions which  elaborated  the  dancers'  actions  through  the 
unigue  capacities  of  the  medium.  Thus  in  Scape-mates 
(1972)  and  Crossings  and  Meetings  (1974),  the  performers 
are  not  simply  recorded  on  videotape,  but  become  an  inte- 
gral part  of  an  aesthetic  that  translates  their  movements  and 
gestures  into  a  synthesis  of  abstract  and  figurative  images. 
The  video  synthesizer  and  colorizer,  developed  in  the 
late  1960s  by  teams  of  artists  and  engineers  such  as  Nam 
June  Paik  and  Shuya  Abe,  Bill  Etra  and  Steve  Rutt,  repre- 
sented new  video  technologies  that  made  possible  a  remark- 
able body  of  electronically  processed  imagery.  Emshwiller's 
art  successfully  demonstrates  how  these  and  more  recent 


Space  Passes,  1981 

technologies,  such  as  advanced  computer  systems,  can  be 
put  to  the  service  of  the  artist.  In  Emshwiller's  case  the  visual 
artist  works  closely  with  the  choreographer/dancer  to  cre- 
ate performance  videotapes  which  change  our  conceptions 
of  both  video  and  dance.  Yet  he  achieved  this  effect  by 
controlling  technology;  it  did  not  overwhelm  his  vision  and 
understanding  of  dance  as  an  expressive  art  form.  Thus  his 
videotapes  are  characterized  by  the  interplay  between  the 
dancer's  movements  and  the  image-processing  effects  and 
technigues.  Emshwiller  has  manipulated  the  two-dimen- 
sional video  image  by  playing,  through  his  performers, 
with  its  three-dimensional  illusionistic  properties. 

Emshwiller  pioneered  strategies  of  editing  that  articulate 
movement  within  the  frame  of  the  single-channel  video- 
tape. In  a  number  of  later  installation  projects,  he  expanded 
and  altered  our  perception  of  the  screen  itself.  Thus  in 
such  multimonitor  pieces  as  Slivers  (1977)  Emshwiller  re- 
composes  the  imagery  by  masking  the  screen's  surface  so 
that  we  see  only  portions  of  the  image.  Here  our  attitude 
toward,  and  perception  of,  the  screen  is  developed  within 
the  exhibition  space  by  altering  how  we  see  the  different 
parts,  or  slivers,  of  the  videotape. 

In  Emshwiller's  latest  project,  Passes  (1982),  the  move- 
ment of  his  dancers  and  performers  within  the  edited  struc- 
ture of  the  four  channels  of  videotape  is  played  out  through 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


the  four  monitors'  arrangement  within  the  Film/Video  Gal- 
lery. Here,  as  opposed  to  Slivers,  we  see  the  image  on  the 
monitor's  screen  as  its  entire  surface,  explored  through  the 
composition  of  movements  and  sounds  within  it.  Each  of 
the  five  short  pieces  explores  time  and  space  through  a  se- 
ries of  strategies  which  distributes  the  actions  of  the  per- 
formers within  the  spaces  in  which  they  performed.  This 
spatial  interplay  is  then  elaborated  within  the  videotapes 
and  the  juxtaposition  of  the  four  monitors.  Fbsses  was  pro- 
duced at  the  California  Institute  of  the  Arts,  where  Emsh- 
willer  teaches  and  is  developing  a  new  center  for  video  art. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Passes,  1982 

Fbsses  is  a  musical/video  surround.  It  is  a  series  of  short 
pieces  which  explores  aspects  of  time  and  space  in  video 
performance.  Space  Fbsses  is  the  unedited  showing  of  four 
events  which  were  recorded  separately  but  were  scored 
and  choreographed  to  be  presented  simultaneously.  Vas- 
cular Fasses  involves  views  of  a  body  with  synchronous 
stereo  internal  sounds.  It  is  structured  by  video  and  sound 
editing.  Cut  Fbsses  shows  one  view  on  all  four  monitors. 
The  musical  structure  and  choreography  come  from  video 
editing.  Fbn  Fbsses  is  from  one  location,  at  different  times, 
with  a  moving  camera  and  microphones,  all  shown  simul- 
taneously. Echo  Passes  is  one  location,  with  digital  image 
transformations  and  stereo  echo  sound  done  in  post-pro- 
duction. 

Ed  Emshwiller 


Biography 

Ed  Emshwiller,  who  was  born  in  East  Lansing,  Michigan,  in  1925,  received 
a  Bachelor  of  Design  degree  from  the  University  of  Michigan  in  1949.  He 
studied  graphics  at  the  Ecole  des  Beaux-Arts,  Paris,  1949-50,  and  at  the 
Art  Students  League  of  New  York,  1951.  He  was  a  painter  and  illustrator 
before  becoming  a  filmmaker.  Emshwiller  has  taught  at  Yale  University, 
the  University  of  California  at  Berkeley,  Cornell  University,  the  State 
University  of  New  York  at  Buffalo,  and  at  Media  Study,  Buffalo.  He  was 
Artist  in  Residence  at  the  WNET-TV/Channel  13  TV  Lab,  New  York, 
1972-79,  a  Ford  Foundation  research  fellow  at  the  Center  for  Music  Re- 
search, University  of  California  at  San  Diego,  1975,  and  visual  consultant 
for  the  PBS  production  The  Lathe  of  Heaven,  1980.  Emshwiller  has  re- 
ceived grants  for  filmmaking  from  the  Ford  Foundation,  the  New  York 
State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  Guggenheim  Foundation,  and  for  video 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts,  the  Rockefeller  Foundation, 
the  Corporation  for  Public  Broadcasting,  and  the  Guggenheim  Founda- 
tion. He  is  currently  Provost  and  Dean  of  the  School  of  Film  and  Video  at 
the  California  Institute  of  the  Arts,  Valencia.  He  lives  in  Valencia. 

Selected  One- Artist  Exhibitions 

Sunken  Meadow  State  Park,  Long  Island,  New  York,  1962;  Cineprobe, 
The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1969;  The  New  American  Film- 
makers Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1971;  Cine- 
probe,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  1972;  The  New  American  Filmmakers 
Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  1972;  Anthology  Film  Archives, 
New  York,  1974,  1976;  The  Kitchen  Center  for  Video,  Music  and  Dance, 
New  York,  1977;  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  1978  (retrospective);  The 
Solomon  R.  Guggenheim  Museum,  New  York,  1980;  Palais  des  Beaux - 
Arts,  Brussels,  1981 


Ed  Emshwiller,  1979.  Photograph  by  Robert  Grosmere. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  "Circuit,"  1973;  The  Mu- 
seum of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Open  Circuits,"  1974;  XIII  Bienal  de  Sao 
Paulo,  1975;  Documenta  6,  Kassel,  West  Germany,  1977;  Siggraph  '82 
Art  Show,  Boston,  1982 

Selected  Bibliography 

Curtis,  David.  Experimental  Cinema.  New  York:  Universe  Books,  1971, 
pp.  45,  136,  138,  145-46. 

Emshwiller,  Ed.  "Image  Maker  Meets  Video,  or,  Psyche  to  Physics  and 
Back."  In  The  New  Television,  edited  by  Douglas  Davis  and  Allison 
Simmons.  Cambridge,  Mass.,  and  London:  The  MIT  Press,  1977. 

Kubelka,  Peter.  Une  Histoire  du  cinema  (exhibition  catalogue).  Paris: 
Musee  National  dArt  Moderne,  Centre  National  dArt  et  de  Culture 
Georges  Pompidou,  1976,  pp.  76-77. 

Mancia,  Adrienne,  and  Willard  Van  Dyke.  "Four  Artists  as  Filmmakers." 
Art  in  America,  55  (January-February  1967),  pp.  64-73. 

Mekas,  Jonas.  Movie  Journal:  The  Rise  of  the  New  American  Cinema, 
1959-1971.  New  York:  Collier  Books,  1972,  pp.  215-16,  221,  386-88. 

Whitehall,  Richard.  "The  Films  of  Ed  Emshwiller."  Film  Quarterly,  20 
(Spring  1967),  pp.  46-50. 

Selected  Filmography  and  Videography 

Dance  Chromatic,  1959.  Color  16mm  film,  sound;  7  minutes 
Thanatopsis,  1962.  Black-and-white  16mm  film,  sound;  5  minutes 
Relativity,  1966.  Color  16mm  film,  sound;  38  minutes 
Image,  Flesh  and  Voice,  1969.  Black-and-white  35mm  film,  sound; 

77  minutes 
Film  with  Three  Dancers,  1970.  Color  16mm  film,  sound;  20  minutes 
Choice  Chance  Woman  Dance,  1971.  Color  16mm  film,  sound;  44  minutes 
Scape-mates,  1972.  Color  videotape,  sound;  29  minutes 
Crossings  and  Meetings,  1974.  Color  videotape,  sound;  23  minutes 
Pilobolus  and  Joan,  1974.  Color  videotape,  sound;  58  minutes 
Slivers,  1977.  Fourteen-monitor  single-channel  video  installation,  color 

videotape,  sound;  60  minutes 
Sur  Faces,  1977.  Color  videotape,  sound;  59  minutes 
Dubs,  1978.  Color  videotape,  sound;  24  minutes 
Sunstone,  1979.  Computer  animation,  color  videotape,  sound;  3  minutes 

Ed  Emshwiller's  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers' Cooperative,  New 
York;  his  videotapes  are  distributed  by  Electronic  Arts  Intermix,  New  York. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

Wednesday -Saturday  11:00-6:00,  Sunday  12:00  6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  c  1982  by  the  Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Citizen 


January  18-30, 1983 


Citizen,  1982.  Film  by  William  Farley.  80  minutes. 
12:00,  1:30,  3:00,  4:30;  also  Tuesdays  at  6:15 


Bob  Ernst  in  Citizen,  1982 

Credits: 

Produced  and  directed  by  William  Farley.  Starring:  Michael  Barrack, 
Stoney  Burke,  Bob  Carroll,  Victoria  Emroy,  Bob  Ernst,  Whoopi  Gold- 
berg, Peter  Gordon,  Judith  Harding,  Darryl  Henriques,  Mantra  Jessop, 
Leon  Johnson,  Scott  Keister,  Murray  Korngold,  Kristopher  Logan,  Pons 
Maar,  John  O'Keefe,  Michael  Peppe,  Cassandra  Politzer,  Lou  Sargent, 
David  Sterry.  Featuring:  David  Abad,  Mary  Arcana,  Gillian  Bagwell, 
Joe  Bagwell,  Bobby  Buechler,  Priscilla  Cohen,  Marlitt  Dellabough, 
Richard  Guzzo,  Liana  Harris,  Lynette  Harrison,  Martina  Joffe,  Charles 
Jones,  Khadejha  LAimont,  Kathenne  Lyons,  Rodney  Martin.  Narration: 
Leland  Mellott.  Casting:  William  Farley  and  George  Coates.  Associate 
producers:  Howard  Boyer,  James  Cloud,  Holly  Hayden,  Mark  Hayden, 
Douglas  Hollis,  Sally  Lubell,  Denise  O'Neill,  Ippy  Paterson,  Neil  Pater- 
son,  Ruth  Reichl,  Ken  Vetter.  Production  managers:  Richard  Folden- 
auer,  Cathy  Ramey.  Production  assistants:  Mike  Anderson,  Ford  An- 
drews, Jules  Backus,  Juliet  Bashore,  Maxi  Cohen,  Jack  Davis,  Mark  East- 
man, Charlotte  Footham,  Doug  Hall,  Nancy  Kosenko,  Truusje  Kushner, 
Chip  Lord,  Jaime  Oria,  Arnie  Passman,  Dana  Plays,  Julie  Schachter,  Eli- 
sibeth  Sher,  Andrea  Sohn,  Eva  Soltes.  Screenplay:  William  Farley, 
George  Coates,  Susan  Roether.  Additional  material:  Stoney  Burke,  Bob 
Carroll,  Whoopi  Goldberg,  Darryl  Henriques,  Murray  Korngold,  John 
O'Keefe,  Michael  Peppe,  Mai  Sharpe,  David  Sterry.  Director  of  photog- 
raphy: Kathleen  Beeler.  Editor:  William  Farley.  Assistant  editor:  Stan 
Russell.  Editorial  consultant:  Richard  R.  Schmidt.  Camera  operators: 
Kathleen  Beeler,  William  Farley,  David  Heintz,  George  Manupelh, 
Richard  R.  Schmidt,  Ian  Turner.  Music  composed  by  Peter  Gordon,  per- 
formed by  The  Love  of  Life  Orchestra.  Additional  music:  "The  Donner 
Party"  by  Eva-Tone  and  Eva -Type;  "Rendezvous"  by  John  Bischoff,  per- 
formed by  "Blue"  Gene  Tyranny;  David  Behrman;  Paul  De  Marinis;  Anne 
Klingensmith.  Titles:  Ken  Dollar.  Negative  conformed  by  Lela  Smith. 
Film  timed  by  Gary  Coats.  Special  thanks  to  The  Film  Arts  Foundation. 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  lanuary  27,  following  the 
1:30  screening.  William  Farley  will  be  present 

Citizen  is  William  Farley's  first  feature-length  film.  Shot  in 
San  Francisco  and  the  surrounding  Bay  Area,  the  film  fol- 
lows a  group  of  anonymous  young  people  on  an  apparent- 
ly random  journey  through  a  disjointed  cityscape.  As  they 
travel,  they  encounter  a  succession  of  madmen  and  eccen- 
trics, portrayed  by  various  West  Coast  performance  art- 
ists, whose  impassioned  monologues  and  improvisations 
satirize  the  institutions  of  contemporary  American  society. 
In  the  depersonalized  environment  of  objects  and  images 
that  Farley  has  created,  these  performers  appear  as  mani- 
festations of  the  wise  man  or  the  holy  fool,  bizarre  individ- 
uals on  the  fringes  of  society  who  offer  guidance  to  the 
group  on  their  Pilgrim's  Progress  through  the  streets,  sub- 
ways, cemeteries,  and  highways  of  America. 

Farley's  intentions  in  this  film  are  profoundly  political. 
The  basic  premise  of  Citizen— the  transformative  journey 
—  and  its  sense  of  anarchic  freedom  and  improvisation  are 
related  to  the  Situationist  notion  of  the  derive,  a  method  of 
psycho-political  interaction  with  the  urban  landscape 
designed  to  restructure  the  individual's  relation  to  the  en- 
vironment. As  defined  by  Guy  Debord,  the  derive  is  "a 
technigue  of  transient  passage  through  varied  ambiances. 

The  derive  entails  playful-constructive  behavior One 

or  more  persons  during  a  certain  period  drop  their  usual 
motives  for  movement  and  action,  their  relations,  their 
work  and  leisure  activities,  and  let  themselves  be  drawn  by 
the  attractions  of  the  terrain  and  the  encounters  they  find 
there." 

Citizen  might  be  viewed  as  a  fictionalized  documentary 
of  an  extended  derive  conducted  by  Farley  and  his  collab- 
orators; selecting  shooting  locations  spontaneously  and 
following  a  scenario  that  offered  only  a  minimal  outline, 
the  cast  and  crew  approached  the  filmmaking  process  in  a 
spirit  of  collective  discovery  and  invention.  The  "stars"  of 
the  film  are  nine  West  Coast  performance  artists  (in  order 
of  appearance:  John  O'Keefe,  Stoney  Burke,  Michael 
Peppe,  Pons  Maar,  Whoopi  Goldberg,  Darryl  Henrigues, 
Bob  Carroll,  Bob  Ernst,  and  Murray  Korngold).  In  direct 
contradiction  to  conventional  notions  of  film  acting,  in 
which  the  actor  subordinates  him  or  herself  to  a  fictional 
character  and  a  dramatic  script,  these  performers  appear 
in  the  immediate  act  of  creating  their  own  improvisations. 
By  filming  these  performances  in  straightforward  docu- 
mentary fashion  and  presenting  them  within  an  abstracted 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


landscape,  Farley  focuses  on  the  performance  artist  as  the 
heroic  embodiment  of  the  individual  creative  act.  In  Citi- 
zen, Farley  proposes  a  new  definition  of  "citizenship":  an 
artistic,  revolutionary  state  of  being  in  which  the  individ- 
ual is  freed  by  his  own  creative,  anarchic  actions  from  the 
constraints  imposed  by  social  structures  and  ideologies. 

The  concerns  of  Citizen  originate  in  Farley's  earlier  films, 
in  which  he  explored  issues  of  narrative  form,  cultural  and 
spiritual  survival,  and  contemporary  society  through  the 
tension  between  images  and  story  elements.  It  is  important 
to  situate  Farley's  work  within  the  context  of  the  various 
traditions  that  inform  it:  the  irrational,  anarchic  writings  of 
William  Burroughs;  the  rich  field  of  contemporary  per- 
formance art;  and  current  independent  filmmaking.  The 
rejection  of  the  standards  and  conventions  of  the  commer- 
cial Hollywood  film  has  been  one  of  the  most  significant 
movements  in  independent  narrative  filmmaking  in  recent 
decades.  Farley,  like  many  of  his  contemporaries,  is  seek- 
ing to  radically  expand  the  language  of  film  as  a  narrative 
form  and  its  potential  as  a  medium  for  personal  vision. 

Callie  Angell 
Assistant  Curator, 
Film  and  Video 


William  Farley  (seated)  directing  Citizen,  1982.  Photograph  by  Richard  Green. 

Artist's  Statement 

My  earliest  memories  include  drawing  and  sketching,  being 
lost  in  the  meditation  of  reproducing  images.  This  interest 
accelerated  after  my  uncle  brought  me  a  roll  of  tracing  cloth 
from  the  factory  where  he  worked.  I  began  tracing  every- 
thing in  sight:  comic  books,  magazines,  newspapers,  pat- 
terns off  the  linoleum  floor,  our  wallpaper,  the  shadows  of 
furniture,  even  moving  images  off  the  TV  screen. 

Thus  began  my  addiction  to  capturing  images.  Until  my 
late  teens,  my  drawing  had  been  strictly  private,  but  when 
I  was  seventeen  my  mother  showed  my  drawings  to  a  local 
artist  who  said  I  had  talent  and  suggested  I  go  to  art  school, 
a  consideration  I  appreciated  since  I  was  doing  murderous 
factory  work  and  was  desperate  to  escape.  After  studying 
commercial  art  and  working  as  an  illustrator  I  discovered 


that  my  need  for  personal  expression  was  the  strongest  im- 
pulse in  my  life.  This  impulse  led  me  into  filmmaking.  The 
distance  between  a  roll  of  tracing  cloth  and  a  roll  of  motion 
picture  film  is  not  so  great.  In  time  it  represents  about  twen- 
ty years.  In  spirit  it  reveals  that  I  have  always  been  involv- 
ed in  the  same  activity:  searching  for  images  that  help  me 
understand  the  life  around  me. 

William  Farley 


Biography 

William  Farley,  born  in  Quincy,  Massachusetts  in  1942,  studied  at  the 
Vesper  George  School  of  Art,  Boston,  1961-64,  and  the  Skowhegan 
School  of  Painting  and  Sculpture  in  Skowhegan,  Maine,  1968;  he  received 
a  B.F.A.  from  the  Maryland  Institute,  College  of  Art,  Baltimore,  in  1969 
and  an  M.F.A.  from  the  California  College  of  Arts  and  Crafts,  Oakland, 
in  1972.  In  addition  to  making  his  own  films,  Farley  has  served  as  script- 
writer, cameraman,  or  creative  consultant  on  a  number  of  other  media 
projects,  including  Richard  Schmidt's  film  Showboat  1988  (1975),  which 
was  shown  at  the  Whitney  Museum  in  1975,  and  videotapes  by  Ant  Farm, 
Robert  Ashley,  and  Joan  Jonas.  From  1974  through  1979,  Farley  lectured 
on  film  at  the  Center  for  Contemporary  Music  at  Mills  College,  Oakland. 
He  has  received  numerous  awards  for  his  films  as  well  as  grants  from  the 
National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  and  the  American  Film  Institute.  His  film 
The  Bell  Rang  to  an  Empty  Sky  (1976-77)  was  shown  at  the  Whitney  Mu- 
seum in  the  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  in  1977.  Farley  is  currently 
working  on  a  feature  film,  Revenge  of  the  Modem  Convenience. 


Selected  One- Artist  Exhibitions 

Project  Theatre,  Dublin,  1977;  Canyon  Cinematheque,  San  Francisco, 
1978;  San  Francisco  State  University,  1979;  School  of  the  Museum  of  Fine 
Arts,  Boston,  1980;  Encounter  Cinema,  University  of  California,  Los  An- 
geles, 1980;  Neighborhood  Film  Project,  International  House,  Philadel- 
phia, 1980;  Wesleyan  University,  Middletown,  Connecticut,  1980;  Media 
Study/Buffalo,  1981;  Pasadena  Film  Forum,  California,  1981. 


Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Ann  Arbor  Film  Festival,  Michigan,  1974;  5th  International  16mm  Cinema 
Festival,  Montreal,  1975;  Rotterdam  International  Film  Festival,  1975;  12th 
Annual  New  York  Avant-Garde  Festival,  Brooklyn,  1975;  Ann  Arbor  Film 
Festival,  1976;  Conference  on  Visual  Anthropology,  Temple  University, 
Philadelphia,  1978;  9th  International  Cinema  Festival,  Nyon,  Switzer- 
land, 1978;  Ann  Arbor  Film  Festival,  1979,  1980;  8th  Deauville  Festival  of 
American  Cinema,  Deauville,  France,  1982;  Hirshhorn  Museum  and 
Sculpture  Garden,  Smithsonian  Institution,  Washington,  D.C.,  "Nu 
Mooveez,"  1982. 


Filmography 

Sea  Space,  1972-73.  Black  and  white,  16mm,  sound;  8  minutes 

Being,  1974-75.  Color,  16mm,  sound;  10  minutes 

The  Bell  Rang  to  an  Empty  Sky,  1976-77.  Color,  16mm,  sound;  5  minutes 

Martham  The  Irish  Film,  1977-79.  Color,  16mm,  sound;  40  minutes 

Made  for  Television,  1981.  Color,  16mm,  sound;  5  minutes 

Citizen,  1982.  Color,  16mm,  sound;  80  minutes 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours 

Tuesday  11:00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  c  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art     < 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Caligari's  Cure 


February  1-11,  1983 


Caligari's  Cure,  1982.  Film  by  Tom  Palazzolo. 

70  minutes.  12:00, 1:30,  3:00,  4:30;  also  Tuesday  at  6:00 

Credits: 

Produced,  written,  directed,  and  edited  by  Tom  Palazzolo.  Cast:  Car- 
mela  Rago  (Mother),  Andy  Soma  (Francis),  Dave  West  (Allen),  Paul 
Rosin  (Cesar),  Hether  McAdams  (Allen's  Mother),  Ron  Kantor  (Sales- 
man), Ellen  Fisher  (Dream  Girl),  Ed  Pino  (Mr.  Bat),  P.  Adams  Sitney 
(Dr.  Arthur  Vision),  Tom  Jerumba  (Chairman  of  the  Board),  Bob  Loe- 
scher  (Dr.  Caligari),  E.  W.  Ross  (Man  in  the  Boat).  Camera:  Kevin  Smith. 
Sets:  Bernard  Beckman.  Costumes:  Lee  Ann  Larson.  Music:  Paul  Gart- 
ski.  Choreography:  Ellen  Fisher. 


Caligari's  Cure  is  Tom  Palazzolo's  first  fictional  narrative 
film  and  also  his  first  feature.  Loosely  structured  as  an  auto- 
biographical remake  of  Robert  Weine's  The  Cabinet  of  Dr. 
Caligari  (1919),  the  film  is  a  comic  fantasy  that  presents  the 
filmmaker's  memories  of  childhood,  Catholic  school,  and 
his  arrival  at  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  as  reenacted  by 
a  cast  of  performance  artists  and  friends  in  wildly  colored, 
distorted  sets  and  costumes.  Palazzolo's  style  is  playful  and 
irreverent,  incorporating  and  openly  acknowledging  a  wide 
range  of  influences  from  cinema,  art  history,  and  contem- 
porary American  art.  The  subjectively  distorted,  expres- 
sionist sets  of  the  original  German  film,  for  instance,  have 
been  transformed  into  a  junky,  cartoon-like,  and  distinctly 
American  version  that  reflects  Palazzolo's  involvement  with 
contemporary  painting  as  well  as  with  film  history. 

Palazzolo  has  borrowed  other  elements  from  The  Cabinet 
of  Dr.  Caligari:  the  characters  of  Francis  the  narrator  (and 
filmmaker's  alter  ego),  Cesar  the  somnambulist,  and  Dr. 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  February  3,  following  the 
1:30  screening.  Tom  Palazzolo  will  be  present. 


Ellen  Fisher  and  Andy  Soma  in  Caligari's  Cure,  1982. 


Carmela  Rago  in  Caligari's  Cure,  1982. 

Caligari  appear;  and  Caligari's  Cure  is,  like  the  original,  a 
tale  told  by  a  madman,  although  in  Palazzolo's  version  the 
seminary/asylum  where  Francis  and  his  friends  end  up  is 
an  obvious  metaphor  for  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  where 
the  filmmaker  has  been  in  residence,  as  student  and  teach- 
er, for  over  twenty  years.  In  Palazzolo's  fantasy,  the  Art 
Institute  and  its  school  become  the  "institution"  in  whose 
rarefied  atmosphere  the  narrator  and  his  fellow  artists, 
having  survived  middle-class  childhood,  Catholic  educa- 
tion, adolescent  sexuality,  and  even  death,  can  live  happily 
ever  after  as  children  and  lunatics. 

There  is  no  small  degree  of  self-parody  in  this  image,  but 
there  is  a  great  deal  of  appreciation  and  affection  as  well. 
Palazzolo  resides  comfortably  within  his  own  sphere  of  ref- 
erence, a  domain  that  includes  the  rich  heritage  of  film  and 
art  history  as  well  as  his  own  personal  memories.  His  famil- 
iar and  gleeful  attitude  toward  these  weighty  traditions  al- 
lows him  to  draw  from  them  freely  while  indulging  in  a 
virtuoso  display  of  visual  and  verbal  puns,  improvised  per- 
formances, sexual  innuendo,  appearances  by  friends,  in- 
jokes  and  obscure  references  (many  of  which  hold  meaning 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


only  for  the  filmmaker  and  his  colleagues).  The  ease  with 
which  Palazzolo  accomplishes  all  this  suggests  a  new,  more 
relaxed,  and  freer  approach  to  the  structuring  of  film  nar- 
rative, not  only  in  its  affirmation  of  the  validity  of  autobio- 
graphical concerns  and  personal  expression,  but  also  in  its 
liberation  of  cultural  tradition  as  a  source  of  inspiration  and 
humor  for  the  contemporary  artist. 

Palazzolo's  work  as  a  filmmaker  has  evolved  through  sev- 
eral stages  since  his  first  film  in  1965.  His  early  works  com- 
bined documentary  with  experimental/expressionist  tech- 
nigues  to  focus  on  the  grotesgue  or  humorous,  particularly 
in  circus  performers,  freaks,  amusement  parks,  patriotic 
parades,  and  other  bizarre  cultural  phenomena.  Around 
1970  Palazzolo  began  concentrating  on  a  direct  cinema- 
verite  approach  and,  often  in  collaboration  with  Jeff  Kreines 
or  Mark  Ranee,  produced  a  number  of  short  documentaries 
that  explored  the  political  attitudes  and  social  behavior  of 
lower-  and  middle-class  Chicago;  perhaps  his  best-known 
film  is  Marquette  Park  II,  an  inside  view  of  American  Nazi 
Party  headguarters  on  the  day  of  the  controversial  1978  Chi- 
cago rally.  Palazzolo's  work  has  always  been  distinguished 
by  his  off-hand  approach  and  his  fine  eye  for  the  ironic 
moment  or  image.  His  sense  of  humor,  his  fascination  with 
the  figure  of  the  performer  and  with  the  unusual,  and  his 
cinema-verite  technigues  are  all  incorporated  into  Cali- 
gari's  Cure,  where  they  enrich  Palazzolo's  first  venture  into 
narrative. 

Callie  Angell 
Assistant  Curator, 
Film  and  Video 


Caligari's  Cure,  1982 

My  work  has  always  depended  on  outside  sources,  whether 
it's  an  artwork  from  another  period  or  people,  events,  and 
places  from  my  own  past  or  present.  I  use  this  material  as  a 
springboard. 

The  combination  of  these  interests  and  a  growing  con- 
cern with  narrative  forms  led  me  to  Caligari's  Cure.  This  is 
my  first  film  dealing  with  both  performance  artists  and  my 
own  background.  Recently  I've  become  interested  in  per- 
formance art  through  my  teaching  at  the  School  of  the  Art 
Institute  of  Chicago  (my  paintings  since  the  mid-1960s  have 
been  concerned  with  performers  in  posed,  artificial  set- 
tings). I  chose  performance  artists  from  the  Art  Institute 
community  because  their  physical  appearance  or  person- 
ality in  some  way  reminded  me  of  my  first  and  perhaps 
strongest  associations. 

Both  as  a  student  and  a  teacher  I  have  spent  most  of  my 
adult  life  in  an  art  environment.  This  present  work  com- 
bines formative  memories  of  Catholic  school  with  the  other 
half  of  my  life  — the  museum  and  school  of  the  Art  Institute 
of  Chicago.  I  have  always  wanted  to  do  a  remake  of  Robert 
Weine's  The  Cabinet  of  Dr.  Caligari,  both  because  the  film 
is  very  interesting  to  me  in  a  psychological  sense  and  to  re- 
flect my  interest  in  art  and  film  history. 

Tom  Palazzolo 


Biography 

Tom  Palazzolo  was  born  in  St.  Louis,  Missouri,  in  1937.  Aiter  studying  at 
the  John  and  Mable  Ringling  School  of  Art  in  Sarasota,  Florida,  from  1958 
through  1960,  he  attended  the  School  of  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  where 
he  studied  photography  and  painting  and  exhibited  with  the  group  known 
as  the  Hairy  Who.  Palazzolo  received  his  M.F.A.  from  the  Art  Institute  in 
1965,  and  began  to  make  films  that  same  year.  During  the  late  1960s, 
Palazzolo  became  well  known  in  what  was  then  called  "underground" 
film;  in  1969  he  traveled  in  the  Middle  East  with  a  program  of  American 
experimental  films  under  the  auspices  of  the  United  States  Information 
Agency,  and  in  1970  received  a  grant  from  the  American  Film  Institute. 
His  film  Love  It/Leave  It  (1970)  was  shown  in  the  Whitney  Museum's  New 
American  Filmmakers  Series  in  1973.  In  the  early  1970s  Palazzolo  began 
to  experiment  with  forms  of  cinema-verite  documentary  and  for  the  next 
ten  years  his  films  focused  on  the  people  and  events  of  working-class 
Chicago.  One  series  of  films  concerned  the  rituals  surrounding  marriage: 
prom  night,  showers,  bachelor  parties,  weddings,  receptions,  and  anni- 
versaries. Palazzolo  has  completed  over  thirty  films  to  date;  his  films  are 
included  in  the  collections  of  the  Museum  of  Modern  Art  and  the  Ameri- 
can Federation  of  Arts  in  New  York.  In  addition  to  filmmaking,  Palazzolo 
has  continued  to  work  in  photography  and  painting.  He  currently  lives 
and  works  in  Chicago;  he  teaches  in  the  Film  Department  of  the  School 
of  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  and  is  also  Associate  Professor  in  the  De- 
partment of  Human  and  Public  Services  at  Richard  J.  Daley  City  College, 
where  he  teaches  art  history  and  photography. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1968;  Museum  of 
Contemporary  Art,  Chicago,  1970;  Millennium  Film  Workshop,  New 
York,  1972;  The  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  1973;  Madison  Art  Center,  Inc. , 
Wisconsin,  1974;  Theater  Van  Guard,  Los  Angeles,  1975;  Museum  of 
Contemporary  Art,  Chicago,  1977;  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis, 
1977;  Indianapolis  Art  Museum,  1978;  International  Museum  of  Photog- 
raphy at  George  Eastman  House,  Rochester,  1980,  1982;  Karen  Lennox 
Gallery,  Chicago,  1982;  Madison  Art  Center,  Inc.,  1982;  Pittsburgh  Film- 
makers, 1982. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Chicago  Underground,"  1969; 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  American 
Art,  New  York,  "American  Dreams  and  Nightmares,"  1973;  Film  Forum, 
New  York,  "Chicago  Film,"  1974,  "Working,"  1978;  Chicago  Filmmakers, 
"New  Films:  Chicago,"  1979;  Pittsburgh  Filmmakers,  "Politics  and  Film," 
1981. 

Selected  Filmography 

All  films  are  16mm,  color,  and  sound. 

"O,"  1965.  12  minutes. 

America's  in  Real  Trouble,  1966.  15  minutes. 

The  Story  oi  How  I  Became  the  Tatooed  Lady,  1967.  20  minutes. 

Z,ove  It/Leave  It,  1970.  15  minutes. 

Ricky  and  Rocky,  1972.  In  collaboration  with  Jeff  Kreines;  12  minutes. 

It's  Later  Than  You  Think,  1973.  In  collaboration  with  Jeff  Kreines; 

25  minutes. 
Marquette  Park  I,  1976.  In  collaboration  with  Mark  Ranee;  25  minutes. 
Gay  lor  a  Day,  1977.  12  minutes. 

Marquette  Park  II,  1978.  In  collaboration  with  Mark  Ranee;  35  minutes. 
Bean's  Bachelor  Party,  1979.  In  collaboration  with  Mark  Ranee; 

20  minutes. 
Mr.  and  Mrs.  Strocchia's  50th  Wedding  Anniversary,  1980.  25  minutes. 
Milwaukee  Talkie,  1981.  14  minutes. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  e  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Joan  Jonas 


February  22-March  13,  1983 


He  Saw  Her  Burning ,  1982.  Video  installation 
On  view  continuously,  12:00-6:00 

Performances: 

Tuesdays  at  6:30  (February  22,  March  1  and  8) 
Fridays  at  6:30  (February  25);  3:00  and  6:30  (March  11) 
Saturdays  at  3:00  (February  26,  March  5  and  12) 
Sundays  at  3:00  (February  27,  March  6  and  13) 

Credits: 

Assistant:  Cynthia  Beatt.  Performance  text  by  Joan  Jonas;  additional 
material  by  Shawn  Lawton.  Installation:  videotape  by  Joan  Jonas;  assist- 
ant editor:  Vincent  Trasov;  with  Joan  Jonas,  Y  Sa  Lo,  Shawn  Lawton,  and 
Vera  and  Gabor  Body.  Performance:  Super-8  film  by  Joan  Jonas;  camera 
and  editor:  Cynthia  Beatt.  Performance  developed  in  West  Berlin  and 
supported  by  the  Deutscher  Akademischer  Austauschdienst. 


loan  Jonas'  latest  work,  He  Saw  Her  Burning,  employs  a 
wide  variety  of  components:  video,  dance,  performance, 
props,  and  Super-8  film.  The  installation  functions  both  as 
an  environment  in  which  to  view  the  videotapes  and  as  a 
set  for  the  performances.  The  resources  for  Jonas'  narrative 
art  are  rich  and  diverse:  autobiography,  current  events, 
science  fiction,  and  folk  tales.  In  He  Saw  Her  Burning ,  she 
uses  preexisting  story  elements.  In  her  earlier  works  these 
elements  had  been  taken  from  myths  and  science  fiction. 
He  Saw  Her  Burning  employs  fragments  of  news  reports  to 
create  a  powerful  new  visual  narrative  form.  Thus,  as  with 
the  Grimm  fairy  tale  reworked  in  her  1976  performance 
The  Juniper  Tree,  the  narrative  is  transformed  and  opened 
up  — words,  actions,  sound  effects,  and  the  visual  elements 
work  together  to  evoke  new  meanings  and  associations, 
different  from  those  of  the  original  texts. 

Performance  is  the  central  strategy  in  the  art  of  Joan 
Jonas.  Through  her  use  of  sound,  language,  and  physical 
movements,  she  explores  not  only  the  construction  of  nar- 
rative forms  but  various  cognitive  and  spatial  concerns  as 
well.  For  example,  the  spatial  exploration  of  such  early 
works  as  her  outdoor  performance  piece  Sound  Delay 
(1970),  which  choreographed  sound  and  dancers'  move- 
ments across  distance,  has  subseguently  been  translated 
into  the  illusionistic  space  of  video.  The  technical  possibili- 
ties of  video  — such  as  left-right  reversal,  feedback,  vertical 
roll,  and  "real  time"  imagery  — enabled  her  to  extend  the 
perceptual  investigations  of  her  performance  pieces.  Such 
videotapes  as  Left  Side  Bight  Side  (1972),  Vertical  Boll 
(1972),  and  I  Want  to  Live  in  the  Country  (and  Other  Bo- 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  February  24,  at  2:00 
Joan  Jonas  will  be  present 


Joan  Jonas  performing  in  He  Saw  Her  Burning  in  West  Berlin,  November  1982 


mances)  (1977-78)  demonstrated  how  the  properties  and 
technologies  of  video  could  be  made  to  address  issues  cur- 
rent in  her  performance  work. 

In  He  Saw  Her  Burning,  video  was  a  catalyst  in  the  crea- 
tion and  design  of  the  performance  and  installation.  Jonas 
developed  the  project  in  West  Berlin,  where  she  was  living 
for  eight  months  on  a  German  government  grant.  As  a  for- 
eigner in  a  large  city  she  spent  much  of  her  time  watching 
television,  listening  to  the  radio,  and  reading  newspapers. 
The  narratives  in  He  Saw  Her  Burning  are  fashioned  from 
two  news  reports  which  Jonas  recounts  at  the  beginning  of 
the  performance.  Jonas  then  becomes,  as  the  single  per- 
former, the  medium  for  the  stories,  the  narrative  elements 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


of  which  are  played  off  against  the  two  prerecorded  video- 
tapes (featuring  an  actor  and  an  actress  telling  two  news 
stories)  which  are  shown  simultaneously  during  the  per- 
formance and  in  the  installation.  The  other  props,  the 
painted  backdrop,  and  the  Super-8  film  expand  further  on 
elements  of  the  narrative. 

The  videotapes  represent  television  as  a  mass-media 
source  of  news  and  information.  Through  the  use  of  pre- 
recorded as  well  as  closed-circuit  video,  the  camera's  point 
of  view  and  the  two-dimensional  properties  of  the  video 
image  are  integrated  into  the  space  of  the  performance. 
He  Saw  Her  Burning  becomes  a  meditation  on  the  mythol- 
ogies of  popular  culture  and  mass  media,  on  the  narrative 
form  of  news  reports,  and  on  the  real  and  imagined  spaces 
of  live  and  video  performance. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

He  Saw  Her  Burning,  1982 

He  Saw  Her  Burning  is  based  on  two  news  stories,  one  from 
the  Internationa]  Herald  Tribune,  July  1982,  about  an  Amer- 
ican soldier  stationed  in  Mannheim,  West  Germany,  who 
stole  a  tank  and  drove  it  down  the  main  street  of  the  city, 
causing  panic  and  confusion.  He  finally  drove  onto  the 
bridge  over  the  Neckar  River,  turned  it  around,  lost  con- 
trol, and  tipped  backward  into  the  water.  There  was  no  ex- 
planation for  his  behavior.  It  took  a  100-ton  swimming  crane 
to  get  the  tank  out  of  the  water. 

The  second  story  is  about  a  Chicago  woman  who  burst 
into  flames  for  no  apparent  reason  (from  the  Journal  Amer- 
ican, Rome,  August  1982).  A  witness  sitting  in  his  car  told 
police  that  suddenly  the  woman  was  on  fire.  There  was 
nothing  left  but  a  pile  of  ashes.  Eight  incidents  of  human 
spontaneous  combustion  are  listed  in  reference  books,  one 
as  late  as  1957. 

The  two  stories  are  intercut  and  linked  throughout  the 
performance.  They  are  experienced  and  witnessed  by  the 
characters,  a  man  and  a  woman,  who  also  tell  the  stories. 
Passages  and  guotes  from  an  Icelandic  saga  are  also  used 
in  this  allegory,  pointing  to  the  timelessness  of  current 
events. 

The  work  developed  from  my  relation  to  the  landscape 
of  Berlin  (past  and  present),  where  I  lived  for  eight  months, 
and  from  my  interest  in  listening  to  the  American  and  En- 
glish radio  stations  while  living  in  a  comparatively  isolated 
situation.  The  two  stories  attracted  me  because  they  stand 
symbolically  for  specific  conditions  in  our  society.  I  was 
drawn  by  the  elements  of  mystery  and  crisis. 

Joan  Jonas 


Television  Workshop  at  WXXI-TV,  Rochester,  the  Rockefeller  Founda- 
tion, and  the  Deutscher  Akademischer  Austauschdienst.  In  1981  she  won 
the  Hyogo  Prefecture  Museum  of  Modern  Art  Prize  at  the  International 
Video  Art  Festival  in  Tokyo.  Joan  Jonas  lives  and  works  in  New  York. 

Selected  Outdoor  Performances 

Jones  Beach  Piece,  Jones  Beach  State  Park,  Nassau  County,  New  York, 
1970;  Beach  Piece  II,  Cape  Breton  Island,  Nova  Scotia,  1971;  Delay  Delay, 
Tiber  River,  Rome  (sponsored  by  Galleria  lAttico,  Rome),  1972. 

Exhibitions  and  Selected  Indoor  Performances 

Oad  Lau,  St.  Peter's  Church,  New  York,  1968;  Organic  Honey's  Visual 
Telepathy,  Lo  Giudice  Gallery,  New  York,  1972;  Organic  Honey's  Verti- 
cal Roll,  Leo  Castelli  Gallery,  New  York,  1973;  The  Juniper  Tree,  Institute 
of  Contemporary  Art,  University  of  Pennsylvania,  Philadelphia,  1976; 
Upsidedown  and  Backwards ,  Sonnabend  Gallery,  New  York,  1979;  "Joan 
Jonas:  Performance/Video/Installation,"  University  Art  Museum,  Uni- 
versity of  California,  Berkeley,  1980;  Double  Lunar  Dogs ,  Performance 
Garage,  New  York,  1981;  "Joan  Jonas:  A  Retrospective  of  Video  Works," 
Anthology  Film  Archives,  New  York,  1982;  He  Saw  Her  Burning ,  Arsenal, 
West  Berlin,  1982. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Crimp,  Douglas.  "Joan  Jonas's  Performance  Works."  Studio  International, 
142  (July-August  1976),  pp.  10-12. 

de  Jong,  Constance.  "Joan  Jonas:  Organic  Honey's  Vertical  Roll."  Arts 
Magazine,  47  (March  1973),  pp.  27-29. 

Jonas,  Joan.  "Organic  Honey's  Visual  Telepathy"  (script).  The  Drama  Re- 
view, 16  (June  1972),  p.  66. 

.  "Seven  Years."  The  Drama  Review,  19  (March  1975),  pp.  13-16. 

.  Scripts  and  Descriptions.  Edited  by  Douglas  Crimp.  Eindhoven, 

Holland:  Stedelijk  van  Abbemuseum;  Berkeley:  University  Art  Mu- 
seum, University  of  California,  1982. 

Junker,  Howard.  "Joan  Jonas:  The  Mirror  Staged."  Art  in  America,  69 
(February  1981),  pp.  87-95. 

Filmography 

Wind,  1968.  Black  and  white,  16mm,  silent;  5'/2  minutes. 

Paul  Revere,  1971.  In  collaboration  with  Richard  Serra.  Black  and  white, 

16mm,  sound;  9  minutes. 
Veil,  1971.  Black  and  white,  16mm,  silent;  6-minute  loop. 
Songdelay,  1973.  Black  and  white,  16mm,  sound;  19  minutes. 

Selected  Videography 

Left  Side  Right  Side,  1972.  Black  and  white,  sound;  7  minutes. 

Vertical  Roll,  1972.  Black  and  white,  sound;  20  minutes. 

Organic  Honey's  Visual  Telepathy,  1972.  Black  and  white,  sound;  23 

minutes. 
Barking,  1973.  Black  and  white,  sound;  3  minutes. 
Three  Returns,  1973.  Black  and  white,  sound;  12  minutes. 
Glass  Puzzle,  1974.  Black  and  white,  sound;  26  minutes. 
Merlo,  1974.  Black  and  white,  sound;  16  minutes. 
Good  Night  Good  Morning ,  1976.  Black  and  white,  sound;  11  minutes. 
/  Want  to  Live  in  the  Country  (and  Other  Romances),  1977-78.  Color, 

sound;  28  minutes. 
Upsidedown  and  Backwards,  1981.  Color,  sound;  28  minutes. 
Joan  Jonas'  videotapes  and  films  are  distributed  by  Castelli-Sonnabend 
Tapes  and  Films,  New  York. 


Biography 

Joan  Jonas,  born  in  New  York  in  1936,  studied  at  Mount  Holyoke  College, 
South  Hadley,  Massachusetts,  where  she  received  a  B.A.  in  Art  History 
in  1958.  She  then  attended  the  School  of  the  Museum  of  Fine  Arts,  Boston, 
from  1958  to  1961,  and  received  an  M.F.A.  from  Columbia  University  in 
1965.  Jonas  has  been  awarded  fellowships  and  grants  for  choreography, 
video,  and  the  visual  arts  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts,  the  Guggenheim  Foundation,  the 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours: 

Tuesday  11:00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  e  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art     < 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Frank  Gillette 


May  31- June  26,  1983 


Oracle,  1983.  Video  installation 
In  collaboration  with  William  Chamberlain,  Stanley 
Darland,  Stuart  Greenstein,  and  Michael  Riesman 
On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  June  2,  at  2:00 
Frank  Gillette  will  be  present 


Credits: 

Chief  programmer  and  program  designer:  Steven  Buchwalter.  Terrar- 
ium  consultant:  Dr.  William  Crotty,  New  York  University.  Video  assist- 
ance: Davidson  Gigliotti.  Computer  hardware  courtesy  Atari,  Digital 
(D.E.C.),  and  Microperipheral.  Sonar  sensing  device  and  8  x  10  Hard 
Color  Copier  courtesy  Polaroid  Corporation.  Paleo  and  Telios  programs 
courtesy  Time  Video  Information  Services  Division  of  Time,  Inc.  Ober- 
heim  synthesizer  courtesy  Oberheim  Electronics,  Inc.  Panscan  units 
courtesy  Nigel  Branwell  and  Audio  &  Design  Recording,  Inc.  Oracle 
was  made  possible  by  a  fellowship  from  the  Rockefeller  Foundation  and 
by  the  generous  support  of  Marilyn  Oshman  Lubetkin  and  Sara  Ann  Marks. 


Oracle  is  the  latest  in  a  long  series  of  projects  by  Frank 
Gillette  that  have  contributed  to  shaping  the  history  of  the 
video  installation.  A  distinctive  feature  of  Gillette's  work 
has  been  the  formal  investigation  of  the  possibilities  of  video 
as  an  image-recording  medium  presented  in  an  installa- 
tion context.  Such  pieces  as  The  Maui  Cycle  (1976)  and 
Aransas,  Axis  of  Observation  (1978-79)  employed  video- 
tape in  multimonitor,  multichannel  configurations.  In  these 
works,  Gillette  interprets  the  specific  sites  and  environ- 
ments with  his  compositions  and  selection  of  images,  ex- 
tending the  image-recording  basis  of  video  through  the 
editing  process.  Thus  the  changes  in  the  light  and  color  of 
the  environment  and  the  cycles  in  plant  and  animal  life  are 
reflected  in  the  choice  of  shots,  the  strategies  of  the  edit- 
ing, and  the  movement  of  the  camera.  In  The  Maui  Cycle 
he  employed  the  video  camera  and  multichannel  format  to 
reveal  the  formal  beauty  and  ecology  of  this  Hawaiian  is- 
land; in  Aransas,  he  explored  the  specific  ecology  of  an 
area,  in  this  case  the  Texas  Gulf  Coast,  by  reconstructing 
the  unigue  plant  and  animal  life  of  the  region  in  photo- 
graphic and  video  imagery. 

Oracle  takes  these  aesthetic  interests  in  a  new  direction 
by  using  computers  connected  by  means  of  sensors  to  the 
changing  ecology  of  a  terrarium.  The  computer  systems 
translate  the  activity  of  the  terrarium  into  video  imagery, 
produced  in  real,  not  recorded,  time.  The  different  life 
forms  thus  become  the  actual  source  of  the  imagery,  and 
not  only  on  closed-circuit  monitors;  in  addition,  the  linking 
of  the  computer  programs  to  a  printer  produces  a  prose 
program.  These  statements  are  in  grammatically  perfect 
English,  and  range  from  50  to  300  words  each.  Finally,  the 


Template  drawing  for  the  Paleo  program  in  Oracle,  1983.  Ink  on  vellum  with 
grid,  11  x  7'/s  inches.  Collection  of  the  artist. 

programs  also  generate  music.  Thus  a  living  ecology,  the 
terrarium,  is  integrated  into  the  installation's  very  structure 
and  becomes  the  means  for  generating  the  visual,  auditory, 
and  linguistic  texts  which  the  spectator  experiences  in  real 
time. 

Increasingly,  new  technologies  are  being  incorporated 
into  art  projects,  a  process  in  which  both  these  technol- 
ogies and  the  concept  of  the  artwork  itself  are  transformed. 
Gillette's  Oracle  is  a  dramatic  advance  in  installation  and 
video  art:  it  addresses  the  entire  process  of  art-making 
through  the  use  of  new  technologies  as  tools  of  observation. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

Oracle,  1983 

Oracle  consists  of  two  opposing  parts,  a  terrarium  and  a 
display  matrix.  The  terrarium,  housing  a  primordial  envi- 
ronment of  ferns,  mosses,  and  lepidoptera,  contains  sen- 
sors converting  random  movement  into  voltage  flow  which 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


determines  changes  in  the  display  matrix.  Six  separate 
computer  programs  intercept  the  voltage  flow  and  generate 
a  fugue  of  textual,  aural,  diagrammatic,  and  imagistic  data 
in  the  matrix  of  eight  monitors,  four  speakers,  and  a  high- 
speed printer.  Two  TV  cameras  convey  the  contents  of  the 
terrarium  to  the  matrix  as  well.  The  programs: 
Ractor  synthesizes  prose.  It  draws  upon  a  vocabulary  of 
approximately  1,300  words  (divided  into  eleven  categories) 
and  the  rules  for  syntax  and  grammar  in  English.  The  length 
and  character  of  the  statements  it  produces  are  determined 
by  random  choice  originating  in  the  terrarium.  Ractor's 
read-out  appears  on  one  monitor  and  the  printer. 
Cantus  composes  music  in  real  time  by  following  algorithms 
which  delimit  the  allowable  choices  of  notes,  rhythms,  and 
rests.  It  utilizes  a  random  value  derived  from  interpreting 
activity  in  the  terrarium.  The  program  chooses  a  first  note, 
or  chord,  and  then  continually  selects  either  a  pitch  or  a 
rest,  and  a  duration  thereof,  for  four  simultaneous  voices, 
until  commanded  to  stop. 

Paleo  is  essentially  an  inventory  of  72  images  drawn  from 
the  Paleolithic,  or  prehistoric,  epoch  of  art.  Its  images  de- 
rive from  the  paintings,  drawings,  and  reliefs  found  on  the 
walls  of  caves  (Altamira,  Lascaux,  Niaux)  in  the  Pyrenees. 
The  selection  and  duration  of  each  image  are  determined 
by  changes  in  the  voltage  flow  monitoring  the  terrarium. 
Telios  is  grounded  in  the  diagrammatic  analysis  of  the 
ratios,  proportions,  and  placements  of  four  key  structures 
in  world  history,  that  is,  the  pyramid  at  Cheops,  the  Greek 
Parthenon,  the  Roman  Pantheon,  and  the  cathedral  at  Co- 
logne. Each  edifice  is  represented  in  the  program  by  five 
views  and  a  floor  plan  which  are  selected  in  the  same  man- 
ner as  the  Paleo  program. 

Inter-1  intercepts  the  live  E-to-E  video  from  the  terrarium 
to  the  matrix  monitor.  It  reconstructs  the  analog  image  in 
digital  terms  and  presents  it  on  the  monitor  adjacent  to  the 
live  image. 

Inter-2  intercepts  the  other  live  E-to-E  video  feed  from  the 
terrarium  in  the  same  manner  as  Inter-  1  but  with  a  different 
set  of  variables  digitalizing  the  image. 

Frank  Gillette 

Biography 

Frank  Gillette,  born  in  Jersey  City,  New  Jersey,  in  1941,  studied  painting 
at  Pratt  Institute,  Brooklyn,  from  1959  to  1962.  Gillette  produced  his  first 
videotape,  St.  Mark's  Place,  in  1967  with  Harvey  Simmons.  His  videotape 
Hark  —  Hork  (1972-73)  was  shown  in  the  Whitney  Museum's  1975  Biennial 
Exhibition.  Two  of  his  multichannel  installations  have  also  been  shown  at 
the  Whitney  Museum:  The  Maui  Cycle  (1976)  in  the  New  American  Film- 
makers Series  in  1977  and  Aransas,  Axis  of  Observation  (1978-79)  in  the 
1981  Biennial  Exhibition.  Gillette's  book,  Between  Paradigms:  The  Mood 
and  Its  Purpose,  was  published  in  1973.  He  has  been  a  National  Endow- 
ment for  the  Arts  Resident  at  the  Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New 
York  (1973);  the  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis  (1974);  and  the  Long 
Beach  Museum  of  Art,  California  (1975);  and  received  grants  from  the 
New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  in  1970,  1972,  1974,  1975,  and  1977. 
Gillette  has  been  a  fellow  of  the  Dare  Foundation  (1975),  the  National  En- 
dowment for  the  Arts  (1976,  1980),  the  Guggenheim  Foundation  (1978), 
and  the  Rockefeller  Foundation  (1981).  Frank  Gillette  lives  in  New  York. 

Collaborators 

William  Chamberlain  is  a  writer  living  in  New  York.  He  and  Thomas  Etter 
are  the  coauthors  of  Ractor,  a  computer  program  which  synthesizes  prose. 


Stanley  Darland  is  a  painter,  sculptor,  and  photographer,  and  is  Com- 
puter Graphics  Consultant  at  Time  Video  Information  Services  Division 
of  Time,  Inc.  He  is  coauthor  with  Gillette  of  the  Telios  and  Paleo  pro- 
grams and  is  collaborator  on  all  computer-graphic  imagery  in  Oracle. 

Stuart  Greenstein,  designer  of  the  sensor  system  in  Oracle,  is  an  inde- 
pendent consultant  in  the  field  of  personal-computer  implementation. 

Michael  Riesman,  a  composer  and  performer,  conceived  and  designed 
the  Cantus  program.  He  is  the  musical  director  and  keyboardist  of  the 
Philip  Glass  Ensemble. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  1973;  Art/Tapes  22,  Flor- 
ence, 1974;  Long  Beach  Museum  of  Art,  California,  1975;  The  New  Ameri- 
can Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York, 
1977;  Contemporary  Arts  Museum,  Houston,  1978;  University  Art  Mu- 
seum, University  of  California,  Berkeley,  1979;  Anthology  Film  Archives, 
New  York,  1980;  The  Kitchen  Center  for  Video,  Music  and  Dance,  New 
York,  1980;  Emanuel  Walter  Gallery,  San  Francisco  Art  Institute,  1981; 
Leo  Castelli  Gallery,  New  York,  1982;  Lawrence  Oliver  Gallery,  Phila- 
delphia, 1983. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Howard  Wise  Gallery,  New  York,  "TV  as  a  Creative  Medium,"  1969;  Ev- 
erson Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  "Circuit:  A  Video  Invitation- 
al," 1973;  Kunsthalle  Koln,  Cologne,  "Projekt-74,"  1974;  Walker  Art  Cen- 
ter, Minneapolis,  "New  Learning  Spaces  and  Places,"  1974;  Institute  of 
Contemporary  Art,  University  of  Pennsylvania,  Philadelphia,  "Video 
Art,"  1975;  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1975  Biennial 
Exhibition;  Documenta  6,  Kassel,  West  Germany,  1977;  P.S.  1,  Institute 
for  Art  and  Urban  Resources,  Long  Island  City,  New  York,  "Landscape 
Video,"  1980;  XIII  Winter  Olympic  Games,  Lake  Placid,  New  York,  1980; 
University  of  Houston,  "The  Multiple  Image,"  1980;  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art,  1981  Biennial  Exhibition;  40th  Venice  Biennale,  1982. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Gillette,  Frank.  Between  Paradigms:  The  Mood  and  Its  Purpose.  New 

York:  Gordon  &  Breach,  1973. 

.  Aransas,  Axis  o/  Observation.  Houston:  Points  of  View,  1978. 

Gillette,  Frank,  and  Brendan  O'Regan.  "A  Teleconference  on  Computers 

and  Art."  All  Area,  2  (Spring  1983). 
London,  Barbara.  "Independent  Video:  The  First  Fifteen  Years."  Artiorum, 

19  (September  1980),  pp.  38-41. 
Rosebush,  Judson,  ed.  Frank  Gillette:  Video— Process  and Meta -Process 

(exhibition  catalogue).  Syracuse,  N.  Y. :  Everson  Museum  of  Art,  1973. 

Selected  Multichannel  Installations 

Wipe  Cycle,  1969.  Nine  channels,  three  time  delays,  black  and  white, 

30  minutes. 
Tetragramaton ,  1972-73.  Six  channels  (30  monitors),  black  and  white, 

30  minutes. 
Track/Trace,   1972-73.  Ten  channels,   five  time  delays,  three  live-feed 

cameras,  black  and  white. 
Muse,  1974-75.  Three  channels,  black  and  white,  15  minutes. 
Quidditas,  1974-75.  Three  channels,  color,  40  minutes. 
The  Maui  Cycle,  1976.  Three  channels,  color,  45  minutes. 
Mecox,  1977.  Three  channels,  color,  20  minutes. 

Aransas,  Axis  of  Observation ,  1978-79.  Six  channels,  color,  45  minutes. 
Olaus  Magnus,  1980.  Four  channels,  color,  30  minutes. 
Symptomatic  Syntax,  1980-81.  Six  channels,  color,  20  minutes. 

Documentation  of  Frank  Gillette's  installations  is  available  from  the  Leo 
Castelli  Gallery,  New  York. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  o  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
©    The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Ernie  Gehr 


September  27-October  9,  1983 


Schedule 

September  27-October  2 

1:00;  also  Tuesday,  September  27,  at  6:30 

Morning.  1968;  Wait,  1968;  Reverberation,  1969; 

Behind  the  Scenes,  1975 

3:00;  also  Tuesday,  September  27,  at  5:00 
Transparency,  1969;  History,  1970;  Field,  1970; 
Serene  Velocity,  1970 

October  4-9 

1:00;  also  Tuesday,  October  4,  at  6:30 

Eureka,  1974-79;  Still,  1969-71 

3:00;  also  Tuesday,  October  4,  at  5:00 

Untitled,  1977;  Mirage,  1981;  Shift,  1972-74;  Table,  1976; 

Untitled,  1981 

Sometime  between  1903  and  1905  an  anonymous  film- 
maker in  San  Francisco  produced  a  short  sequence  of  si- 
lent film  footage  from  a  moving  streetcar.  Seventy  years 
later  Ernie  Gehr,  an  artist  living  in  New  York,  found  the 
footage  and  transformed  it  into  Eureka  (1974-79),  a  land- 
mark film  in  the  history  of  the  American  independent  cin- 
ema. The  aesthetic  power  of  Eureka,  one  of  the  films  in  this 
retrospective,  is  representative  of  Gehr's  entire  oeuvre 
and  an  analysis  of  it  reveals  the  complex  of  issues  present 
in  all  of  his  films. 

Gehr  refilmed  each  of  the  found-footage  frames  eight 
times.  The  original  film,  projected  at  its  silent  speed  (16 
frames  per  second  [fps])  had  a  running  time  of  approxi- 
mately four  minutes.  After  Gehr  reworked  it,  the  total  run- 
ning time  extended  to  thirty  minutes,  projected  at  24  fps, 
without  a  soundtrack.  The  San  Francisco  filmmaker,  with  a 
continuous  tracking  camera  positioned  on  the  streetcar, 
had  recorded  on  celluloid  the  action  on  and  about  the 
streets  and  buildings.  Gehr's  manipulation  of  the  frame 
transformed  this  action  into  gradually  shifting  movements 
of  people  and  vehicles. 

One  of  the  most  interesting  aspects  of  the  use  of  this 
found  material  is  that  only  a  single  moving  shot  — one  rhe- 
torical device  —  serves  as  the  basis  for  Gehr's  exploration 
of  how  the  photographic  image  is  framed  and  interpreted. 
In  Eureka  the  relentless  gaze  of  the  camera  proceeds 
through  a  historical  space,  a  street  in  San  Francisco  before 
the  earthquake  destroyed  it.  Gehr  expands  on  this  visual 
discourse:  his  rigorous  strategy  is  to  refashion  our  percep- 
tion of  the  film  by  opening  up  its  process  of  production 
and,  conseguently,  the  space  and  details  of  the  action.  His 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  September  29,  following 
the  1:00  screening.  Ernie  Gehr  will  be  present. 


Frames  from  Serene  Velocity,  1970. 

decision  to  rephotograph  each  frame  as  he  did  removes 
any  flicker  in  the  image,  thus  making  the  technique 
employed  invisible  to  the  viewer. 

The  formal  and  aesthetic  issues  addressed  in  Eureka  are 
also  developed,  with  different  strategies,  in  his  other  films. 
There  is  an  attention  in  Gehr's  cinema  to  the  entire  frame 
of  celluloid  and  its  surface  as  a  compositional  field  and  a 
strict  concern  with  the  cinematic  principles  that  shape  the 
film's  form.  Thus  the  properties  of  both  the  material  and 
the  camera  are  treated  in  the  construction  of  the  film  and 
the  framing  of  the  composition.  In  such  works  as  Rever- 
beration (1969),  Still  (1969-71),  History  (1970),  Serene  Ve- 
locity (1970),  and  Untitled  (1981),  Gehr  employs  a  variety 
of  filmic  devices  and  refines,  through  the  subtlety  of  em- 
phasis within  each  work,  how  we  perceive  such  composi- 
tional elements  as  superimposition  (Reverberation) ,  zoom 
shots  (Serene  Velocity),  and  film  grain  (History).  He  inves- 
tigates the  phenomenology  of  the  photographed  image 


can  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  par 
:  jwment  for  the  Arts. 


ibhc  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 


and  the  dynamics  of  movement  and  time  within  the  illu- 
sionistic,  two-dimensional  properties  of  film  space. 

Ernie  Gehr's  films  share  in  the  aesthetic  concerns  which 
have  engaged  painters,  sculptors,  photographers,  and 
video  artists,  particularly  within  the  context  of  Conceptual 
and  Minimal  art.  The  formal  issues  at  play  in  his  films 
define  them  as  "structural."  This  independent  film  move- 
ment is  characterized  by  work  which  emphasizes  specific 
properties  of  the  film  production  process.  Yet  Gehr's  work, 
because  it  embraces  both  representational  and  abstract 
imagery,  transcends  identification  with  a  single  move- 
ment. Seen  in  their  entirety,  his  films  represent  a  unigue 
achievement  in  the  American  avant-garde  cinema. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

Artist's  Statement 

A  still  has  to  do  with  a  particular  intensity  of  light,  an  im- 
age, a  composition  frozen  in  time  and  space. 

A  shot  has  to  do  with  a  variable  intensity  of  light,  an  in- 
ternal balance  of  time  dependent  upon  an  intermittent 
movement  and  a  movement  within  a  given  space  depen- 
dent upon  persistence  of  vision. 

A  shot  can  be  a  film,  or  a  film  may  be  composed  of  a 
number  of  shots. 

A  still  as  related  to  film  is  concerned  with  using  and  los- 
ing an  image  of  something  through  time  and  space.  In 
representational  films  sometimes  the  image  affirms  its  own 
presence  as  image,  graphic  entity,  but  most  often  it  serves 
as  vehicle  to  a  photo-recorded  event.  Most  films  teach  film 
to  be  an  image,  a  representing.  But  film  is  a  real  thing  and 
as  a  real  thing  it  is  not  imitation.  It  does  not  reflect  on  life,  it 
embodies  the  life  of  the  mind.  It  is  not  a  vehicle  for  ideas  or 
portrayals  of  emotion  outside  of  its  own  existence  as 
emoted  idea.  Film  is  a  variable  intensity  of  light,  an  inter- 
nal balance  of  time,  a  movement  within  a  given  space. 

When  I  began  to  make  films  I  believed  pictures  of  things 
must  go  into  films  if  anything  was  to  mean  anything.  This  is 
what  almost  everybody  who  has  done  anything  worthwhile 
with  film  has  done  and  is  still  doing  but  this  again  has  to  do 
with  everything  a  still  is  — a  representing.  And  when  I  ac- 
tually began  filming  I  found  this  small  difficulty:  neither 
film,  filming  nor  projecting  had  anything  to  do  with  emo- 
tions, objects,  beings,  or  ideas.  I  began  to  think  about  this 
and  what  film  really  is  and  how  I  see  and  feel  and  experi- 
ence film.  ~         ,-,  , 

hrnie  C^ehr 

Excerpt  from  "Program  Notes  by  Ernie  Gehr  for  a  Film  Screening  at  the 
Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York  City,  February  2, 1971  at  5:30  p.m.,  "Film 
Culture,  Spring  1972,  pp.  36-37. 

Biography 

Ernie  Gehr  lives  and  works  in  New  York.  His  films  are  in  the  collections  of 
several  museums  and  universities,  including  Anthology  Film  Archives, 
New  York;  the  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York;  the  Walker  Art  Center, 
Minneapolis;  the  Rocky  Mountain  Film  Center,  University  of  Colorado, 
Boulder;  and  New  York  University.  He  has  been  represented  in  film  festi- 
vals such  as  "New  Forms  in  Film,"  Montreux,  Switzerland,  1974,  and  the 
Berlin  International  Film  Festival,  1976.  In  1979  he  was  invited  to  be  an 
:i  residence  by  the  Art  Department  of  the  University  of  Colorado, 
Boulder.  He  has  taught  film  production  and  film  history  at  various  schools, 


including  Bard  College,  Annandale-on-Hudson,  New  York;  the  State 
University  of  New  York  campuses  at  Bmghamton  and  Buffalo;  the  Univer- 
sity of  Colorado,  Boulder;  and  the  School  of  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Museum  of  Art,  Carnegie  Institute,  Pittsburgh,  1974;  London  Film  Makers 
Co-op,  1977;  Pacific  Film  Archives,  Berkeley,  1978;  Boston  Film/Video 
Foundation,  1979;  The  Cmemathegue,  San  Francisco,  1979;  Cineprobe, 
The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1979;  Rocky  Mountain  Film 
Center,  University  of  Colorado,  Boulder,  1979;  The  Funnel  Theater, 
Toronto,  1980;  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis,  1980;  Collective  for  Liv- 
ing Cinema,  New  York,  1981;  The  Arsenal,  West  Berlin,  1982;  Millennium, 
New  York,  1982;  Musee  National  d'Art  Moderne,  Centre  National  d'Art  et 
de  Culture  Georges  Pompidou,  Paris,  1982;  School  of  the  Art  Institute  of 
Chicago,  1983. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

The  American  Federation  of  Arts,  New  York,  "A  History  of  the  American 
Avant-Garde  Cinema,"  1976;  Musee  National  dArt  Moderne,  Centre  Na- 
tional d'Art  et  de  Culture  Georges  Pompidou,  Paris,  "Une  Histoire  du 
cinema,"  1976;  New  York  State  Gallery  Association,  "Film  as  Art"  (travel- 
ing exhibition),  1977;  Media  Study,  Buffalo,  "The  Moving  Image,"  1978; 
Moderna  Museet,  Stockholm,  "The  Pleasure  Dome,"  1981;  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1981  Biennial  Exhibition;  The  20th 
New  York  Film  Festival,  Lincoln  Center,  New  York,  1982;  Whitney  Museum 
of  American  Art,  1983  Biennial  Exhibition. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Cornwell,  Regina.  "Works  of  Ernie  Gehr  from  1968  to  1972."  Film 
Culture,  nos.  63-64  (1977),  pp.  29-38. 

Gehr,  Ernie.  "Program  Notes  by  Ernie  Gehr  for  a  Film  Screening  at 
the  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York  City,  February  2,  1971  at  5:30 
p.m."  Film  Culture,  Spring  1972,  pp.  36-38.  Reprinted  in  P.  Adams 
Sitney,  ed.,  The  Avant-Garde  Film:  A  Header  of  Theory  and  Criti- 
cism. Anthology  Film  Archives  Series.  New  York:  New  York  Univer- 
sity Press,  1978. 

Hoberman,  J.  "Explorations:  Back  to  Basics."  American  Film,  7  (June 
1982),  pp.  8,  21. 

Mekas,  Jonas.  "Ernie  Gehr  Interviewed  by  Jonas  Mekas,  March  24, 
1971."  Film  Culture,  Spring  1972,  pp.  25-36. 

Sitney,  P.  Adams.  Visionary  Film:  The  American  Avant-Garde,  1943- 
1978.  2nd  ed.  New  York:  Oxiord  University  Press,  1979,  pp.  369, 
373,  381,  436-40,  443. 

Filmography 

All  films  are  16mm. 

Morning,  1968.  Color,  silent;  4'/2  minutes. 

Wait,  1968.  Color,  silent;  7  minutes. 

Reverberation ,  1969.  Black  and  white,  sound;  25  minutes. 

Transparency,  1969.  Color,  silent;  11  minutes. 

Still,  1969-71.  Color,  sound;  54'/2  minutes. 

History,  1970.  Black  and  white,  silent;  25  minutes. 

Field,  1970.  Black  and  white,  silent;  10  minutes. 

Serene  Velocity,  1970.  Color,  silent;  23  minutes. 

Shift,  1972-74.  Color,  sound;  9  minutes. 

Eureka,  1974-79.  Black  and  white,  silent;  30  minutes. 

Behind  the  Scenes,  1975.  Color,  sound;  5  minutes. 

Table,  1976.  Color,  silent;  16  minutes. 

Untitled,  1977.  Color,  silent;  4  minutes. 

Mirage,  1981.  Color,  silent;  12  minutes. 

Untitled,  1981.  Color,  silent,  30  minutes. 

Ernie  Gehr's  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers'  Cooperative, 

New  York. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  A  I   w  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

6:00 
Sum  i 
Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0' 


Copyright  c  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  10 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Warren  Sonbert 


October  11-23,  1983 


Schedule 

October  11-23 

12:30  daily;  Tuesdays  at  12:30  and  4:00 

Carriage  Trade,  1971 

October  11-16 

Tuesday  at  2:00  and  6:30;  Wednesday-Sunday  at  2:00  and  3:30 
Rude  Awakening ,  1975;  A  Woman's  Touch,  1983 

October  18-23 

Tuesday  at  2:00  and  6:30;  Wednesday-Sunday  at  2:00  and  3:30 
Divided  Loyalties,  1978;  Noblesse  Oblige,  1981 

Our  perception  of  the  projected  film  image  is  shaped  by  a 
number  of  factors  in  the  production  process.  One  of  them, 
editing,  constitutes  a  central  strategy  in  filmmaking.  The 
joining  together  of  two  or  more  seguences  of  film  footage, 
editing  gives  the  film  its  overall  framework;  it  links  the 
shifting  points  of  view  and  compositions  of  different  shots, 
and,  in  the  process,  structures  the  viewer's  temporal  per- 
ception of  the  film's  action.  It  is  Warren  Sonbert's  virtuoso 
use  of  editing  and  his  exploration  of  linkage  that  is  of  spe- 
cial interest  in  his  films. 

This  exhibition  includes  five  of  Sonbert's  films.  Carriage 
Trade  (1971),  Rude  Awakening  (1975),  Divided  Loyalties 
(1978),  Noblesse  Oblige  (1981),  and  A  Woman's  Touch 
(1983)  comprise  a  unigue  contribution  to  the  art  of  film  and 
to  the  genre  of  the  diary  film.  With  his  camera  Sonbert  re- 
cords impressions  from  his  travels  and  daily  life,  captur- 
ing details  of  the  world  around  him.  This  material  is  then 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  October  13,  following  the 
2:00  screening.  Warren  Sonbert  will  be  present. 


Noblesse  Oblige,  1981. 


A  Woman's  Touch,  1983. 

refashioned  as  he  edits  the  pieces  of  film  into  a  coherent 
whole.  It  is  in  the  editing  process  that  the  film  footage  is 
synthesized  as  the  relationships  between  shots  are  devel- 
oped. Sonbert  creates  a  visual  language  out  of  discrete 
images,  joining  them  into  seguences  by  formal  associa- 
tions of  light,  color,  composition,  movement  within  the 
frame,  and  the  moving  camera.  Place  and  time  shift  kalei- 
doscopically. 

The  art  of  Warren  Sonbert  translates  the  diary  form  into 
visual  terms  through  the  properties  of  the  film  medium. 
The  recorded  fragments  of  time  and  place  become  memo- 
ries formed  by  the  editing  process  into  the  reflexive  dis- 
course of  the  diary.  The  films  give  impressionistic  views 
of  a  personal  and  public  realm,  ranging  from  his  travels 
around  the  world  in  the  program's  first  film,  Carriage 
Trade  (1971),  to  the  shots  of  San  Francisco,  Washington, 
D.C.,  gay-rights  demonstrations,  traffic  in  the  streets, 
clouds  rolling  over  the  mountains,  and  people  in  their 
houses  in  Noblesse  Oblige  (1981).  In  addition  to  the  for- 
mal relationships  between  shots  that  produce  the  cascad- 
ing flow  of  images,  Sonbert's  interpretative  vision  — his 
perception  of  place  and  of  the  timeless  moment  —  is  acute. 
Like  a  novelist  who  plays  with  the  structure  of  the  sentence 
and  makes  us  aware  of  the  varying  shades  of  meaning  of 
each  word,  sentence,  and  paragraph,   Sonbert  looks 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


through  the  surface  meaning  of  the  image,  the  literal 
recorded  shot,  to  the  linearity  of  time  and  the  logic  of  se- 
guence.  He  transforms  our  expectations  of  time  and  se- 
guence  through  the  pace  of  the  action  and  the  camera's 
point  of  view. 

Warren  Sonbert's  diaristic  films,  together  with  the  films 
of  Jonas  Mekas  and  Andrew  Noren,  define  a  significant 
genre  within  the  American  independent  cinema.  The 
portability  of  the  hand-held  16mm  camera  provided  the 
filmmaker  with  new  access  to  the  events  occurring  around 
him.  The  lightweight  camera  allowed  Sonbert,  for  exam- 
ple, to  shoot  out  of  the  window  of  an  airplane  taking  him 
home  from  one  of  his  journeys.  As  viewers  we  are  carried 
silently  around  Sonbert's  country  and  world,  yet  the  re- 
corded film  image  transcends  the  specificity  of  a  moment 
in  time  and  becomes  part  of  an  aesthetic  whole,  an  inter- 
pretation and  rendering  of  our  world. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

Artist's  Statement 

These  films  are  accumulations  of  evidence.  The  images 
must  be  read:  not  only  what  narrative  connotations  are 
given  off  by  representational  imagery  as  regards  both 
language  and  figure-engaged  activity,  but  also  the  con- 
structive signposts  of  point  of  view,  exposure,  composition, 
color,  directional  pulls  and  the  textural  overlay.  But  in 
film  the  solo  image  is  akin  to  an  isolated  chord;  the  kinetic 
thrust  emerges  with  montage.  That  process  expands,  de- 
flates, contradicts,  reinforces  or  gualifies.  It  is  this  specific 
and  directed  placement  that  provides  film  with  both  its 
structure  and  its  freedom. 

Film  can  do  flips,  is  acrobatic.  A  highly  charged  shot, 
though  still  potentially  balanced  by  a  multitude  of  sug- 
gestibles,  may  in  turn,  by  replacement  by  a  more  neutral 
image,  shift  into  objectivity  the  initial  heightened  re- 
sponse. This  play  with  expectations,  both  frustrated  and 
enhanced,  constitutes  a  reason  to  look  at  the  screen.  The 
variables  of  an  image,  its  visual  gualities  being  punctua- 
tion, swell  to  a  series  of  statements,  whose  provocative 
strains  demand  a  measured  vigilance  of  the  viewer,  when 
editing  can  either  underline,  comment  upon  or  upset  the 
fluctuating  contiguities.  This  is  not  to  say  that  the  possible 
pleasure  produced  refuses  rigor,  but  rather  that  cerebral 
sleight-of-hand  implies  control. 

Warren  Sonbert 


Biography 

Warren  Sonbert  was  born  in  1947  in  New  York.  He  studied  filmmaking  at 
New  York  University,  where  he  received  a  B.A.,  cum  laude,  in  1969.  He 
taught  film  at  Bard  College,  Annandale-on-Hudson,  New  York,  from  1973 
to  1975,  and  at  the  San  Francisco  Art  Institute  from  1978  to  1979.  Sonbert 
received  a  CAPS  grant  (Creative  Artists  Program  Service,  Inc.)  in  film- 
making from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  in  1976.  His  films  are 
in  the  collections  of  the  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York;  the  Musee  Na- 
tional dArt  Moderne,  Centre  National  d'Art  et  de  Culture  Georges  Pom- 
pidou, Paris;  theOsterreichischesFilmmuseum,  Vienna;  and  the  Arsenal, 
West  Berlin.  Warren  Sonbert  lives  in  San  Francisco. 


Selected  One- Artist  Exhibitions 

Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1971;  The  New  Ameri- 
can Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York, 
1973;  Collective  for  Living  Cinema,  New  York,  1975;  Cineprobe,  The 
Museum  of  Modern  Art,  1976;  The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series, 
Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  1976;  Osterreichisches  Filmmuseum, 
Vienna,  1976;  The  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  1977;  Collective  for  Living 
Cinema,  1978;  The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney  Museum 
of  American  Art,  1978;  Harvard  University,  Cambridge,  Massachusetts, 
1979;  University  of  California,  Los  Angeles,  1979;  Cineprobe,  The  Muse- 
um of  Modern  Art,  1980;  The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art,  1980;  Collective  for  Living  Cinema,  1981;  The 
Museum  of  Fine  Arts,  Houston,  1981;  The  Arsenal,  West  Berlin,  1982; 
Collective  for  Living  Cinema,  1982;  Miinchner  Stadtmuseum,  Munich, 
1982;  Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  1983. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

National  Film  Archive,  London,  "First  International  Experimental  Film 
Festival,"  1970,  and  "Second  International  Experimental  Film  Festival," 
1973;  Filmex,  Los  Angeles,  1974;  Vancouver  Art  Gallery,  "Vancouver 
Film  Festival,"  1974;  Musee  National  dArt  Moderne,  Centre  National 
d'Art  et  de  Culture  Georges  Pompidou,  Paris,  "First  International  Film  Ex- 
hibition," 1976;  Berlin  Film  Festival,  1977;  Whitney  Museum  of  American 
Art,  New  York,  1979  Biennial  Exhibition;  Moderna  Museet,  Stockholm, 
"New  American  Cinema,"  1980;  Holland  Film  Festival,  Amsterdam,  1982; 
Mill  Valley  Film  Festival,  Mill  Valley,  California,  1982;  Whitney  Museum 
of  American  Art,  1983  Biennial  Exhibition. 

Filmography 

All  films  are  16mm  and  color,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Amphetamine,  1966.  Black  and  white,  sound;  10  minutes. 

Where  Did  Our  Love  Go?,  1966.  Sound;  15  minutes. 

Hall  o/ Mirrors,  1966.  Sound;  7  minutes. 

77je  Tenth  Legion,  1967.  Sound;  30  minutes. 

Truth  Serum,  1967.  Sound;  10  minutes. 

77je  Bad  and  the  Beautiful,  1967.  Sound;  35  minutes. 

Connection,  1967.  Sound;  15  minutes. 

Ted  &  Jessica,  1967.  Sound;  7  minutes. 

Holiday,  1968.  Sound;  15  minutes. 

Carriage  Trade,  1971.  Silent;  61  minutes.  (Includes  footage  from  7Vje 

Tenth  Legion,  Truth  Serum,  The  Bad  and  the  Beautiful ,  Connection, 

Ted  &  Jessica,  and  Holiday.) 
Rude  Awakening,  1975.  Silent;  36  minutes. 
Divided  Loyalties ,  1978.  Silent;  22  minutes. 
Noblesse  Oblige,  1981.  Silent;  25  minutes. 
A  Woman's  Touch,  1983.  Silent;  22  minutes. 

Warren  Sonbert's  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers'  Cooperative, 
New  York. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Carroll,  Noel.  "Causation,  the  Ampliation  of  Movement  and  Avant-Garde 

Film."  Millennium  Film  Journal,  Fall-Winter  1981-82,  pp.  61-82. 
Curtis,  David.  Experimental  Cinema.  New  York:  Delta  Books,  1971,  pp. 

70,  71,  172. 
Davidson,  David.  "Warren  Sonbert's  Noblesse  Oblige."  Millennium  Film 

Journal,  Fall-Winter  1982-83,  pp.  109-11. 
Mekas,  Jonas.  Movie  Journal.  New  York:  Collier  Books,  1972,  pp.  258, 

326,  369,  404-5. 
Sitney,  P.  Adams.  Visionary  Film:  The  American  Avant-Garde,  1943- 

1978.  2nd  ed.  New  York:  Oxford  University  Press,  1979,  p.  360. 
Stoller,  James.  "Shooting  Up."  In  The  New  American  Cinema,  edited  by 

Gregory  Battcock.  New  York:  E.  P.  Dutton  &  Co.,  1967,  pp.  180-85. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

Wednesday -Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  e  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    1 1 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


My  Word 


October  25-30,  1983 


My  Word,  1973-74.  Super-8  film  by  Vito  Acconci. 
120  minutes.  12:00,  3:00;  also  Tuesday  at  5:30. 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  October  27,  following 
the  12:00  screening.  Vito  Acconci  will  be  present. 


Vito  Acconci's  My  Word  (1973-74)  is  an  autobiographical 
film  produced  between  the  fall  of  1973  and  the  summer  of 
1974.  This  feature-length  work,  with  a  running  time  of  two 
hours,  is  a  major  project  by  one  of  the  first  artists  to  suc- 
cessfully develop  a  significant  oeuvre  in  the  Super-8  film 
format.  To  Acconci,  who  began  to  work  with  Super-8  in  the 
late  1960s,  the  format  had  the  advantage  of  being  both  flex- 
ible and  inexpensive.  Acconci  adapts  the  medium  of  film  to 
his  aesthetic,  which  is  distinguished  by  a  probing  into  the 
self  and  an  exploration  of  the  psychology  of  perception. 
Thus,  as  in  Acconci's  other  performance,  video,  and  in- 
stallation pieces,  the  camera  in  My  Word  is  expressly 
focused  on  the  artist's  body  and  movements  as  he  sets  up 
situations  and  scenarios  which  create,  within  specific 
spaces,  provocative  narratives  and  actions  related  to  his 
life  and  art-making. 


Frames  from  My  Word,  1973-74.  Photograph  by  Babette  Mangolte. 


In  My  Word,  Acconci  places  his  audience  in  an  ambig- 
uous position  vis-a-vis  the  narrative  and  point  of  view.  The 
film  has  no  soundtrack  and  is  composed  of  written  state- 
ments alternating  with  shots  of  the  artist  in  his  studio  and 
around  his  building.  Acconci  is  the  central  protagonist 
whose  gestures,  actions,  and  written  statements  are  all 
addressed  to  women  — women  are  the  other,  unseen,  pres- 
ences in  this  work.  The  point  of  view  of  the  camera  can  be 
interpreted  as  that  of  the  women,  silently  confronting  Ac- 
conci, or  that  of  Acconci  himself,  mirroring  his  every 
move.  "I  have  acknowledged  what  a  screen  could  mean," 
Acconci  writes  at  one  point  in  the  film,  and  My  Word  is  a 
meditation  on  the  screen  as  it  captures  what  the  camera  re- 
cords and  becomes  the  ground  on  which  the  various  per- 
sonae  of  the  artist,  viewer,  performer,  and  women  interact 
and  through  which  the  artist  explores  language  and  si- 
lence. 

The  references  to  Acconci's  art-making  and  to  his  fe- 
male friends  make  the  film,  on  one  level,  a  commentary 
on  his  life  from  1973  to  1974.  However,  on  another  level, 
he  is  seriously  speculating  on  the  idea  of  art  offered  up  as 
the  basis  for  a  discourse  on  one's  own  life.  Our  perception 
of  the  film  changes  as  the  points  of  view  shift  between  the 
artist  staring  at  us,  and  the  camera  observing  him.  We 
perceive  My  Word  as  being  on  the  border  between  a  real 
and  imaginary,  a  conscious  and  an  unconscious,  reflec- 
tion of  the  artist's  self  and  his  world. 

lohn  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


1.  By  the  end  of  1973,  Super-8  film  was  a  part  of  my  past. 
The  1970  pieces  had  almost  all  been  on  film:  still  camera, 
one  take,  three-minute  film;  my  image  as  a  target  in  front 
of  the  camera.  If,  now,  I  was  going  to  return  to  film,  three 
or  four  years  later,  the  method  would  have  to  be  different: 
moving  camera  ("every  trick  in  the  book"),  change  of 
scene,  feature-length  film;  my  person  as  viewpoint  rather 
than  target. 

2.  My  Word  started  from  the  assumption  that,  at  this  par- 
ticular time  (1973),  Super-8  is  — by  convention  — a  silent 


the  National  En 


iblic  I 


medium:  I  would  make  a  film,  then,  about  being  silent, 
about  not  talking. 

3.  Not  talking  would  have  its  reasons,  not  talking  could 
make  a  plot:  I  won't  talk  about  it  (whatever  it  is)  because  I 
don't  want  you  (whoever  you  are)  to  know. 

4.  Super-8  film  had  "made  my  image":  on  the  one  hand, 
the  1970  pieces  recorded  my  image  as  that  image  adapted 
to,  or  changed  by,  my  activity;  on  the  other  hand,  the  1970 
pieces  were  the  first  pieces  attended  to  by  the  media.  If 
now,  in  1973, 1  was  going  to  use  Super-8  film  again,  I  had  to 
parody  the  image,  the  trademark,  that  I  had  let  film  form 
for  myself. 

5.  In  the  back  of  my  mind:  first-person  films  like  the  Robert 
Montgomery  version  of  Raymond  Chandler's  The  Lady  in 
the  Lake,  or  Claude  Chabrol's  The  Third  Lover. 

6.  "I"  blowing  itself  up,  becoming  bigger  than  it  should 
be,  becoming  "too  big  for  its  britches"  (just  as  Super-8  film 
is  being  blown  up  here,  becoming  a  feature-length  movie, 
becoming  bigger  than  it  should  be,  becoming  too  big  for 
its  medium). 

7.  Super-8  film  as  home  movies:  the  film  takes  place  in  one 
space  (my  own  home,  my  own  mind)  —  the  film  starts  with 
corner  and  wall  (banging  my  head  against  the  wall,  driv- 
ing myself  into  a  corner),  then  goes  to  windows  (but  I  can 
only  walk  past  them,  I  can't  look  out),  then  to  deep  interior 
space  (I  can  walk  around  in  circles),  then  out  the  window 
(but  I  can  only  look),  then  outside  (but  it's  only  the  roof  of 
my  own  house),  then  back  inside  (I  can  only  go  home 
again). 

8.  If  the  film  has  no  sound,  if  I  can't  talk  about  "it"  aloud, 
then  I  can  always  write  it  down:  words  would  be  written  on 
the  screen,  as  if  on  a  blackboard.  Not  speaking,  "person" 
loses  breath,  loses  the  "spirit"  of  person:  the  person  be- 
comes de-personalized,  becomes  a  schematic  of  person, 
as  if  a  person  were  looking  down  at  his/her  self  from  out  of 
the  body  (as  if  a  person  were  looking  at  his/her  self  on 
screen). 

9.  The  words  are  written  at  the  bottom  of  the  screen,  as  if 
they're  subtitles  to  a  scene  that  isn't  there,  subtitles  to  a 
conversation  in  another  language  that  isn't  there  (it's  all 
in  my  mind  anyway,  it's  only  words). 

10.  In  1973,  the  last  two  years  of  work  had  been  live:  the 
making  of  a  meeting-place  between  artist  and  viewer  —  the 
making  of  an  intimate  space.  By  1973,  this  psychological 
space  seemed  to  be  an  escapist  space:  pointing  out  the 
faults  in  "us"  was  an  excuse  to  avoid  seeing  the  flaws  in  an 
external  system,  a  social/cultural/political  system.  {My 
Word  turned  out  to  be  the  last  piece  that  "showed  myself.") 

11.  The  film  keeps  ending,  keeps  being  about  to  end  (I 
can't  end  the  film  because  then  I  would  be  ending  the  re- 
lationships—I  can't  end  the  relationships  because  then  I 
would  be  ending  myself).  So  the  film  is  either  a  last  gasp 
of  "I,"  a  desperate  attempt  to  retain  what's  seen  as  "identi- 
ty"; or  it's  a  view,  from  a  detached  non-I  position,  of  "me" 
as  a  dead  end,  of  the  absurdity  of  personalness. 

Vito  Acconci 


Biography 

Vito  Acconci,  born  in  the  Bronx,  New  York,  in  1940,  lives  and  works  in 
Brooklyn.  He  was  represented  at  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
in  the  1977  Biennial  Exhibition  with  his  videotape  Undertone;  by  his  three- 
part  videotape  The  Red  Tapes  in  the  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  in 
1978;  and  in  nine  group  exhibitions.  His  sculptural  installation  False  Cen- 
teriorL.A.  (ontheNew  York  Address)  (1978-79)  is  currently  on  view  in  the 
Whitney  Museum's  exhibition  "Minimalism  to  Expressionism:  Painting 
and  Sculpture  Since  1965  from  the  Permanent  Collection,"  through  De- 
cember 4,  1983. 

Selected  One- Artist  Exhibitions 

And/Or,  Seattle,  1975;  The  Kitchen  Center  for  Video  and  Music,  New 
York,  1976;  Anthology  Film  Archives,  New  York,  1977;  Stedelijk  Museum, 
Amsterdam,  1978;  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art,  Chicago,  1980;  Institute 
of  Contemporary  Art,  Virginia  Museum  of  Fine  Arts,  Richmond,  1982. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Information,"  1970;  Kassel,  West 
Germany,  Documenta  5,  1972;  Institute  of  Contemporary  Art,  University 
of  Pennsylvania,  Philadelphia,  "Video  Art,"  1975;  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art,  New  York,  1977  and  1981  Biennial  Exhibitions;  Kassel, 
West  Germany,  Documenta  7,  1982. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Kirshner,  Judith  Russi.  Vito  Acconci.  A  Retrospective:  1969-1980.  An  Ex- 
hibition Organized  by  the  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art,  Chicago, 
March  21-May  18,  1980  (exhibition  catalogue).  Chicago:  Museum  of 
Contemporary  Art,  1980  (with  citation  of  earlier  literature). 

Filmography 

All  films  are  Super-8,  silent,  except  where  otherwise  noted. 

Three  Attention  Studies,  1969.  Color;  9  minutes. 

Three  Frame  Studies  (Circle,  Jump,  Push),  1969.  Color  and  black  and 

white;  9  minutes. 
Applications,  1970.  Color;  8  minutes. 
Fill,  1970.  Color;  3  minutes. 
Open-Close,  1970.  Color;  6  minutes. 
Openings,  1970.  Color;  14  minutes. 
Push,  1970.  Color;  3  minutes. 
Rubbings,  1970.  Color;  8  minutes. 
See-Through,  1970.  Color;  5  minutes. 
Three  Adaptation  Studies,  1970.  Color  and  black  and  white,  16mm; 

16  minutes. 
Three  Relationship  Studies,  1970.  Color;  15  minutes. 
Two  Cover  Studies,  1970.  Color;  9  minutes. 
7ivo  Takes,  1970.  Color;  8  minutes. 
Conversions,  1971.  Black  and  white;  72  minutes. 
Pick-Ups,  1971.  Color;  15  minutes. 
Watch,  1971.  Black  and  white;  9  minutes. 
Waterways  (Burst:  Storage),  1971.  Color;  6  minutes. 
Zone,  1971.  Color;  15  minutes. 
Face  to  Face,  1972.  Color;  15  minutes. 
Hand  to  Hand,  1972.  Color;  12  minutes. 
My  Word,  1973-74.  Color  and  black  and  white;  120  minutes. 
Vito  Acconci  is  represented  by  Castelli-Sonnabend  Tapes  and  Films, 
Inc.,  New  York. 


Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours: 

):00 

JO 
Sund 
Film  and  video  information:  ( 


Copyright  c  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    1 2 
^€    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Gary  Hill 


November  8-December  11,  1983 


Primarily  Speaking,  1981-83.  Video  installation 
On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 

Credits: 

Special  thanks  for  props  and  objects  to  Donna  Cisan,  Brenda  Cullom, 
Richard  Gummere,  Cindy  Hollis,  Bruce  Lubman,  Peggy  Lubman, 
George  Quasha,  Susan  Quasha.  Production  assistance:  Richard  Gum- 
mere,  Greg  Hill.  Technical  assistance:  Dave  Jones,  Bob  Pearl,  Woody 
Vasulka. 

Primarily  Speaking  was  made  possible  with  public  funds  from  the  New 
York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  a  Rockefeller  Video  Artist  Fellowship, 
the  Television  Laboratory  at  WNET/Thirteen,  and  Installation  Inc. 

The  television  set  is  traditionally  defined  by  the  format  of 
broadcast  television  as  a  static  receiver  of  programs.  We 
position  ourselves  as  viewers  before  the  television  screen 
to  observe  sequences  of  sounds  and  images  joined  together 
to  create  a  linear  unit  of  meaning  with  a  beginning,  mid- 
dle, and  end.  Thus  the  television  set  is  expected  to  remain 
in  a  single  position,  vis-a-vis  the  viewer.  Moreover,  the 
standardized  purposes  of  the  broadcasting  industry  inhibit 
the  exploration  of  television's  unique  expressive  potential. 

In  the  hands  of  the  artist,  video  technology  becomes  a 
flexible  image-making  tool  with  the  capacity  to  record, 
transform,  and  generate  imagery,  and  to  question  how  we 
perceive  its  images.  The  history  of  the  single-channel  art- 
ist's videotape,  created  for  the  single  monitor,  encompasses 
an  extraordinary  range  of  work  that  explores  abstract  and 
representational  images  within  narrative  and  non-narrative 
forms  and  points  of  view.  In  addition,  artists  have  made  the 
placement  of  video  monitors  in  the  exhibition  space  another 
creative  dimension  of  the  medium.  The  relationship  of 
multiple  channels  of  video  images  to  the  siting  of  monitors 
becomes  a  central  aesthetic  strategy  in  the  video  installa- 
tion. Here  the  spectator  is  no  longer  a  passive  viewer  but  is 
actively  engaged  in  a  mobile  interaction  with  the  medium. 

Fundamental  to  Gary  Hill's  video  installation  Primarily 
Speaking  (1981-83)  is  language  — specifically,  words  and 
phrases  presented  aurally— which  are  integrated  with  solid 
fields  of  color  and  images  of  objects  and  scenes  on  video- 
tape. The  two  channels  of  videotape  and  sound  are  dis- 
played in  two  wooden  structures,  each  housing  four 
monitors  placed  in  a  row  at  eye  level,  facing  each  other  in 
such  a  manner  that  they  form  a  corridor.  Thus  the  changes 
in  sequences  of  the  videotapes  and  soundtracks  between 
both  structures  forms  a  choreography  of  images  and  sounds 
in  time  and  space.  The  temporal  dimension  unfolds  during 
the  twenty-minute  playing  cycle  of  the  videotapes  and  au- 
diotapes, while  the  spatial  dimension  is  shaped  by  the 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  November  10,  at  2:00 
Gary  Hill  will  be  present 


Primarily  Speaking,  1981-83. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


movement  of  sounds  and  images  between  the  two  banks  of 
monitors  as  the  spectators  perceive  different  combinations 
of  video  and  sound  through  their  shifting  points  of  view. 
The  complexity  of  Primarily  Speaking  resides  in  its  ag- 
gressive use  of  multiple  layers  of  image  and  sound  text 
modulated  not  in  a  linear  line  of  reasoning  but  as  a  three- 
dimensional  experience.  The  work  becomes  a  seen,  heard, 
and  spoken  meditation  on  forms  of  meaning.  This  refashion- 
ing of  sights  and  sounds  results  from  the  capacity  of  video 
to  distribute  and  control  discrete  and  highly  defined  mov- 
ing images  in  such  a  way  that  they  can  be  orchestrated  into 
a  complex  audio/visual  cycle.  Primarily  Speaking  weaves 
different  expressions  and  descriptions,  language  and 
images,  into  a  seamless  intertextual  construct  which  is  both 
aesthetically  engaging  and  intellectually  demanding. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Primarily  Speaking,  1981-83 

The  title  Primarily  Speaking  should  pretty  much  be  taken 
at  face  value.  This  is  to  say  that  prying  into  things  merely 
for  orientation  should  be  avoided  at  all  costs.  Nobody  wants 
to  be  riding  a  bicycle,  especially  at  top  speed,  only  to  dis- 
cover that  the  wheels  are  spokeless  and  wonder  how  they 
got  as  far  as  they  did  in  the  first  place.  The  work,  consisting 
of  eleven  parts  segmented  by  anthemic  songs,  is  founded 
in  a  monologue  construed  from  idiomatic  phrase  units  — 
language  at  large  residing  in  the  public  domain.  The  voice 
ping-pongs  up  and  down  a  corridor  stacking  the  idioms, 
placing  linguistic  objects  in  their  appropriate  places,  some- 
times answering  and  sometimes  guestioning.  The  given  is 
always  reciprocated.  An  image  of  a  seesaw  comes  to  mind. 
(I  remember  playing  seesaw  and  in  my  neighborhood  the 
object  of  the  game  was  to  leave  your  partner  high  and  dry 
by  jumping  off  at  the  instant  your  end  touched  ground, 
leaving  said  partner  to  come  crashing  down  with  his/her 
own  weight  — in  effect  sawing  off  the  seeing.) 

The  text  provides  the  attention  span  offered  as  a  cross- 
ing. Images  are  signposts  syllabicated  by  the  tongue, 
pushed  out  and  left  by  the  wayside  — discards,  there  is  al- 
ways room  for  more.  The  snake  sheds  its  skin.  This  isn't 
something  new,  nor  is  it  a  recapitulation,  it's  a  different  take 
on  talking  pictures  — talking  pictures  breaking  the  story. 
(Words  and  images  move  together  like  old  roads  and  their 
placements  sometimes  do,  and  every  once  in  a  while  they 
share  a  stretch  of  time  where  the  scenario  doesn't  permit 
the  necessary  excavations.) 

Really,  it  all  boils  down  to  this:  I  walked  in  on  a  tell  a  vi- 
sion set  and  all  the  dialogue  was  provided  and  there  were 
countless  props,  props  upon  props,  more  than  I  could  ever 
use  in  a  lifetime  and  it  was  all  in  living  color  colors  colored 
—  everything  just  as  you  or  I  might  expect.  Eye  level  and 
surprised,  I  found  myself  staring  at  arm's  length  cross-eyed 
into  the  palm  of  a  hand.  It  was  a  glimpse  of  actual  size  which 
bespeaks  my  preoccupation  with  the  notion  of  face  value. 

Gary  Hill 


Biography 

Gary  Hill,  born  in  Santa  Monica,  California,  in  1951,  has  been  living  and 
working  in  upstate  New  York  since  he  moved  east  in  1969.  A  sculptor,  Hill 
began  working  in  video  in  the  1970s,  and  was  artist-in-residence  at  such 
video  centers  in  New  York  State  as  Synapse  (Syracuse),  Portable  Chan- 
nel (Rochester),  and  the  Experimental  TV  Center  (Owego).  He  has  re- 
ceived several  grants  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  Cre- 
ative Artists  Public  Service,  Inc.,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the 
Arts— among  the  latter,  a  United  States/Japan  Exchange  Fellowship.  Hill 
was  artist-in-residence  at  WNET/Thirteen's  TV  Lab  and  was  a  Video  Artist 
Fellow  of  the  Rockefeller  Foundation.  He  has  taught  at  the  Center  for 
Media  Study,  Buffalo,  and  now  teaches  at  Bard  College,  Annandale-on- 
Hudson,  New  York. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

South  Houston  Gallery,  New  York,  1974;  Anthology  Film  Archives,  New 
York,  1976;  Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  1979;  The 
Kitchen  Center  for  Video,  Music  and  Dance,  New  York,  1979;  The  Mu- 
seum of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Video  Viewpoints,"  1980;  And/Or,  Seat- 
tle, 1981;  The  Kitchen  Center  for  Video,  Music  and  Dance,  New  York,  1981; 
Galerie  H  at  ORF,  Steirischer  Herbst,  Graz,  Austria,  1982;  Long  Beach 
Museum  of  Art,  Long  Beach,  California,  1982. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  "New  Work  in  Abstract  Video 
Imagery,"  1977,  "Video  Revue,"  1979;  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New 
York,  "Projects:  Video  XXVIII,"  1979;  Video  80/San  Francisco  Video  Fes- 
tival, 1980;  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Projects:  Video 
XXXV,"  1981;  Sydney,  Australia,  Biennale,  1982;  Hudson  River  Museum, 
Yonkers,  New  York,  "Electronic  Visions,"  1983;  University  Art  Museum, 
University  of  New  Mexico,  Albuquergue,  "Video  as  Attitude,"  1983; 
Palais  des  Beaux- Arts,  Brussels,  "Art  Video  Retrospectives  et  Perspec- 
tives," 1983;  Walter  Phillips  Gallery,  Banff,  Alberta,  Canada,  "The  Sec- 
ond Link:  Viewpoints  on  Video  in  the  Eighties"  (traveling  exhibition),  1983; 
Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1983  Biennial  Exhibition. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Furlong ,  Lucinda .  "A  Manner  of  Speaking :  An  Interview  with  Gary  Hill," 
Afterimage,  10  (March  1983),  pp.  9-16. 

Hill,  Gary.  Around  &  About.  Buffalo,  New  York:  Hallwalls  Gallery,  1981. 

Larson,  Kay.  "Art:  Through  a  Screen  Dimly,"  New  York,  September  12, 
1983,  pp.  86-87. 

Quasha,  George.  "Notes  on  the  Feedback  Horizon,"  in  Glass  Onion  (pro- 
gram notes).  Barrytown,  New  York:  Station  Hill  Press,  1980. 

Selected  Videography 

The  Fall,  1973.  Black  and  white,  sound;  11  minutes. 

Rock  City  Road,  1974-75.  Color,  silent;  12  minutes. 

Earth  Pulse,  1975.  Color,  sound;  6  minutes. 

Improvisation  with  Bluestone,  1976.  Color,  sound;  7  minutes. 

Ring  Modulation,  1978.  Color,  sound;  3  minutes. 

Sums  and  Differences,  1978.  Black  and  white,  sound;  8  minutes. 

Windows,  1978.  Color,  silent;  8  minutes. 

Soundings,  1979.  Color,  sound;  17  minutes. 

Around  &  About,  1980.  Color,  sound;  5  minutes. 

Processual  Video,  1980.  Black  and  white,  sound;  ll'/j  minutes. 

Videograms,  1980-81.  Black  and  white,  sound;  13  minutes. 

Primarily  Speaking,  1981  -83.  Color,  stereo  sound;  19  minutes. 

Happenstance  (part  I  of  many  parts) ,  1982  83.  Black  and  white,  stereo 

sound;  6  minutes. 
Gary  Hill's  videotapes  are  distributed  by  Electronic  Arts  Intermix, 
New  York. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00  6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0' 


Copyright  ©  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    1 3 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Alvin  Lucier 


December  21 -January  24,  1984 


Seesaw,  1983.  Sound  installation 

On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  December  22,  at  2:00 
Alvin  Lucier  will  be  present 


Credits: 

Room  treatment  by  Douglas  Simon  and  Studio  Consultants,  Inc. 

Digital  oscillators  designed  by  Bob  Bielecki. 

Alvin  Lucier,  a  leading  contemporary  composer,  has  also 
done  innovative  work  in  the  creation  of  new  forms  of  sound 
environments  within  gallery  spaces.  In  his  latest  sound  in- 
stallation, Seesaw  (1983),  the  exhibition  space  becomes  an 
acoustic  instrument  in  which  audio  oscillators,  placed  in 
specific  locations,  generate  through  speakers  a  constella- 
tion of  reverberating  sound  patterns.  The  audience  experi- 
ences the  sound  waves,  moving  invisibly  about  the  gallery 
space,  as  a  physical  presence. 

The  sound-installation  projects  of  Alvin  Lucier  and  other 
contemporary  artists  —  among  them,  Max  Neuhaus,  Liz 
Phillips,  and  Bill  Fontana  —  employ  new  sound-generating 
technologies  to  explore  the  properties  of  sound  in  relation- 
ship to  the  spatial  characteristics  and  wall  surfaces  with 
which  sound  interacts.  The  structures  of  sound— processed, 
prerecorded,  and  live  — passing  through  space  create  sub- 
tle spatial  environments.  Spectators  in  the  gallery  interact 
with  the  sound,  experiencing  an  alteration  of  spatial  per- 
ception, as  space  is  filled  with  the  temporal  articulation  of 
sound. 


Music  on  a  Long  Thin  Wire,  1977.  I 
Babette  Mangolte. 


iotel,  New  York.  Photograph  by 


Sound  artists,  in  their  use  of  advanced  technologies  and 
their  involvement  with  the  site,  share  many  of  the  concerns 
of  today's  video-  and  film-installation  artists.  Sound-instal- 
lation projects  are  allied  to  the  theoretical  and  aesthetic  is- 
sues that  film-  and  video-installation  works  have  brought 
to  the  traditional  practice  of  sculpture.  Both  forms  are 
rooted  in  a  technology  that  introduces  a  new  physical  and 
phenomenological  character  to  the  three-dimensional 
properties  of  sculpture:  in  video  and  film  installations  it  is 
the  added  dimension  of  the  temporal,  moving  image  as  de- 
ployed within  the  gallery  space;  in  sound  installations  it  is 
the  temporal  and  invisible  presence  of  sound  waves  linking 
different  physical  points  in  space. 

Alvin  Lucier's  Seesaw  and  other  contemporary  sound 
installations  seek  to  break  through  the  boundaries  that 
separate  art  and  technology.  Sound  becomes  the  medium 
for  an  active  inguiry  into  our  basic  definition  of,  and  expe- 
rience with,  the  art  object. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

Artist's  Statement 

For  several  years  I  have  been  exploring  ways  of  moving 
sounds  in  space.  In  performance  works  such  as  Vespers 
(1968)  and  Reflections  of  Sounds  from  the  Wall  (1982),  sound 
waves  bounce  off  reflective  surfaces  to  various  points  in  a 
room.  In  Directions  of  Sounds  from  the  Bridge  (1979)  and 
The  Shapes  of  the  Sounds  from  the  Board  (1980),  they  flow 
out  of  musical  instruments  in  different  directions  for  differ- 
ent pitches.  More  recently,  in  Crossings  (1982),  orchestral 
players  cause  ripples  of  sound  to  whirl  around  the  concert 
hall.  In  none  of  these  works  is  the  movement  produced  by 
electronic  switching  or  panning;  instead,  the  natural  char- 
acteristics of  sound  waves  are  allowed  to  reveal  themselves. 
Still  and  Moving  Lines  of  Silence  in  Families  of  Hyper- 
bolas (1974-83),  a  large-scale  work  for  singers,  players, 
dancers,  and  audio  oscillators,  explores  interference  phe- 
nomena between  two  or  more  sound  waves.  When  closely 
tuned  musical  tones  are  sounded,  audible  beats  — bumps 
of  loud  sound  produced  as  the  sound  waves  coincide  — oc- 
cur at  speeds  determined  by  the  difference  between  the 
pitches  of  the  tones.  The  larger  the  difference,  the  faster 
the  beating.  At  unison,  no  beating  occurs.  Furthermore,  if 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Alvin  Lucier.  Photograph  by  Gene  Bagnato. 

each  tone  originates  from  a  separate  source,  the  beats  spin 
in  elliptical  patterns  through  space,  from  the  higher  source 
to  the  lower  one. 

The  nature  of  pure  sound  waves  is  such  that  their  physi- 
cal presence  is  perceptible.  In  the  same  way  that  nodes 
and  antinodes  occur  along  a  vibrating  string,  crests  and 
troughs  of  loud  and  soft  sound  position  themselves  at  reg- 
ular intervals  in  any  relatively  echo-free  room  through 
which  pure  waves  flow.  The  distance  between  troughs  is 
determined  by  the  size  of  the  wavelength  of  the  sound.  Low 
sounds  have  long  wavelengths,  up  to  several  feet;  high 
sounds,  as  small  as  a  few  inches.  When  two  closely  posi- 
tioned waves  occupy  the  same  space,  their  crests  and 
troughs  are  in  constant  movement,  in  an  attempt  to  stabi- 
lize themselves. 

In  Seesaw,  two  pure-wave  oscillators  are  routed  through 
amplifiers  to  loudspeakers  positioned  far  apart  in  the  room. 
One  is  precisely  tuned;  the  other  is  programmed  to  sweep 
slowly  and  continuously  to  eguidistant  points  slightly  above 
and  below  that  fixed  pitch.  As  it  dips  below,  walls  of  sound 
travel  across  the  room  toward  the  lower-sounding  loud- 
speaker. As  it  approaches  the  fixed  pitch  from  either  side, 
the  speed  of  the  movement  gradually  slows  down  until,  at 
unison,  it  stops. 

Seesaw  is  the  first  in  a  projected  series  of  installed  works, 
tentatively  entitled  The  Motions  ot  Certain  Closely  Tuned 
Waves,  in  which  various  patterns  of  movement  of  sounds  in 
space  will  be  created. 

Alvin  Lucier 


Biography 

Born  in  Nashua,  New  Hampshire,  in  1931,  Alvin  Lucier  studied  music  at 
Yale  University  (B.A.,  1954)  and  Brandeis  University  (M.F.A.,  1960)  and 
spent  two  years  in  Rome  on  a  Fulbright  scholarship.  He  taught  at  Brandeis 
University  from  1962  to  1969  and  has  been  Chairman  of  the  Music  Depart- 
ment at  Wesleyan  University,  Middletown,  Connecticut,  since  1979.  Lu- 
cier co-founded  the  Sonic  Arts  Union  with  Robert  Ashley,  David  Behr- 
man,  and  Gordon  Mumma  in  1966  and  was  Music  Director  of  the  Viola 
Farber  Dance  Company  from  1972  to  1977.  He  was  awarded  Composer's 
Fellowships  by  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  in  1977  and  1981.  A 
pioneer  in  composition  and  performance,  Lucier  has  begun  a  series  of 
solar-powered  sound  installations  in  collaboration  with  electronic  de- 
signer John  Fullemann.  His  recent  orchestral  work,  Crossings,  was  per- 
formed at  the  opening  concert  of  the  1982  New  Music  America  festival  in 
Chicago  by  members  of  the  Chicago  Symphony  Orchestra. 

Selected  Premieres 

Action  Music  lor  Piano,  1962,  Gallena  La  Salita,  Rome,  Frederic  Rzewski, 
piano;  Music  for  Solo  Performer,  1965,  Rose  Art  Museum,  Brandeis  Uni- 
versity, Waltham,  Massachusetts,  John  Cage,  electronic  controls;  Vespers, 
1968,  ONCE  Festival,  Ann  Arbor,  Michigan,  members  of  the  ONCE 
Group;  f  Am  Sitting  in  a  Room,  1970,  The  Solomon  R.  Guggenheim  Mu- 
seum, New  York,  image  by  Mary  Lucier;  The  Queen  of  the  South,  1972, 
Spencer  Memorial  Church,  Brooklyn;  Still  and  Moving  Lines  of  Silence 
in  Families  of  Hyperbolas,  1973-74,  Festival  dAutomne  a  Paris,  Musee 
Galleria,  Paris;  Directions  of  Sounds  from  the  Bridge,  1979,  Experimen- 
tal Intermedia  Foundation,  New  York;  Crossings,  1982,  New  Music  Amer- 
ica, Chicago,  members  of  the  Chicago  Symphony  Orchestra. 
Alvin  Lucier  is  represented  by  Performing  Artservices,  New  York. 

Recordings 

North  American  Time  Capsule,  1967.  CBS  Odyssey  Records 
Vespers,  1968.  Mainstream 

fAm  Sitting  in  a  Boom,  1970.  SOURCE  Record  #3 
The  Duke  of  Yourk,  1971,  1976.  Cramps  Records  (Italy) 
Bird  and  Person  Dynmg,  1975,  1976.  Cramps  Records  (Italy) 
Music  on  a  Long  Thin  Wire,  1980.  Lovely  Music 
I  Am  Sitting  in  a  Boom,  1981.  Lovely  Music 
Music  for  Solo  Performer,  1983.  Lovely  Music 

Still  and  Moving  Lines  of  Silence  in  Families  of  Hyperbolas,  to  be  released 
in  1984.  Lovely  Music 

Selected  Bibliography 

Ballantine,  Christopher.  "Towards  an  Aesthetic  of  Experimental  Music." 
The  Musical  Quarterly,  63  (April  1977),  pp.  224-46. 

DeLio,  Thomas.  "Avant-Garde  Issues  in  Seventies  Music."  Artforum,  18 
(September  1979),  pp.  61-67. 

.  "The  Shape  of  Sound:  Music  for  Pure  Waves,  Bass  Drums  and 

Acoustic  Pendulums  by  Alvin  Lucier. "Percussive  Notes  (research  edi- 
tion), 21  (September  1983),  pp.  15-22. 

Ewen,  David,  ed.  American  Composers:  A  Biographical  Dictionary. 
New  York:  G.  P.  Putnam's  Sons,  1982. 

Lucier,  Alvin.  "Interview  with  Douglas  Simon."  In  Individuals:  Post- 
Movement  Art  in  America,  edited  with  an  introduction  by  Alan  Sond- 
heim.  New  York:  E.  P.  Dutton  &  Co.,  Inc.,  1977,  pp.  157-77. 

Lucier,  Alvin,  and  Douglas  Simon.  Chambers:  Scores  and  Interviews 
on  Music  and  Environment.  Middletown,  Connecticut:  Wesleyan  Uni- 
versity Press,  1980. 

Marshall,  Stuart.  "Alvin  Lucier's  Music  of  Signs  in  Space."  Studio  Inter- 
national, 192  (November- December  1976),  pp.  284-90. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours: 

Tuesday  11:00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  ©  1983  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


> 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    14 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Dara  Birnbaum 


February  4-March  4,  1984 


PM Magazine,  1982.  Video  installation 

On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 

Credits: 

Video  post-production:  CMX  editors  — Mark  Bement,  Steven  Rob- 
inson, California  Institute  of  the  Arts;  Matt  Danowski,  Electronic 
Arts  Intermix;  Joseph  Leonardi,  the  Annex,  Long  Beach  Museum 
of  Art.  Music  collaboration:  Dara  Birnbaum,  Simeon  Softer.  Post- 
production  sound  editor/mixer:  Simeon  Soffer.  Musical  assistance: 
vocals  — Shauna  D'Larson;  drums/rhythm  —  James  Dougherty,  Jon 
Norton  {L.A.  Woman);  guitar  — David  Dowse  {L.A.  Woman),  Mark 
Norris;  synthesizer  — Simeon  Soffer.  Design  consultation  and  ex- 
ecution: Dan  Hill,  John  Salmen. 

The  artist  wishes  to  thank  Nancy  Hoyt,  who  made  the  original  in- 
stallation of  PM  Magazine  possible  at  The  Hudson  River  Museum, 
Yonkers,  New  York,  and  Coosje  Van  Bruggen,  who  made  the  instal- 
lation possible  at  "Documenta  7,"  Kassel,  West  Germany. 

The  art  of  Dara  Birnbaum  has  established  an  aesthetic  dis- 
course predicated  on  both  a  formal  and  ideological  inves- 
tigation of  commercial  broadcast  television.  In  her  video- 
tapes she  refashions  television's  popular  images  through  a 
variety  of  editing  and  image-processing  strategies  that  ex- 
pose the  hidden  meanings  within  narrative  and  commercial 
programs. 

In  a  series  of  short  videotapes  Birnbaum  began  to  exam- 
ine the  dichotomies  within  the  broadcast  medium.  She  de- 
constructed pop  culture  images  and  their  content  through 
the  interplay  of  image  and  sound,  a  process  that  revealed 
latent  agendas  within  the  narrative.  In  Technology/Trans- 
formation: Wonder  Woman  (1978),  selected  actions  of  Won- 
der Woman,  appropriated  from  the  television  show,  are 
repeated  on  the  screen  so  that  they  take  on  a  rhetorical 
form,  a  ritualized  gesture  performed  against  a  popular 
record,  "Wonder  Woman  in  Discoland."  Here  television's 
caricature  of  the  heroic  female  is  contradicted  by  the  lines 
of  the  song,  which  describe  her  as  a  sexual  object.  This 
strategy  lays  bare  what  is  in  fact  encoded  in  the  television 
presentation. 

PM  Magazine  (1982),  Bimbaum's  latest  video  installation, 
focuses  on  the  self -promotional  and  commercial  aspects  of 
television.  The  videotapes,  with  music  and  spoken  words, 
show  computer  and  word-processing  systems  set  up  in  an 
imaginary  electronic  office  of  the  future  in  which  the  work 
space  is  a  hyper -efficient  field  of  exciting  and  slick  images. 
This  commercial  message  is  combined  on  the  monitors  with 
the  introduction  to  P.M.  Magazine,  the  news  and  entertain- 
ment program  that  shows  families  and  children  as  happy 
consumers.  The  commercial  message  in  both  programs  is 
opened  up  as  the  artist  probes  hidden  attitudes  toward 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  February  9,  at  2:00 
Dara  Birnbaum  will  be  present 


PM Magazine ,  1982.  Video  installation  at  The  Hudson  River  Museum,  Yonkers, 
New  York.  Photograph  by  Dara  Birnbaum. 

women  and  the  sexual  roles  of  the  office  worker  and  con- 
sumer by  replaying  them  on  monitors  that  are  placed  with- 
in three  enlarged  photographic  panels. 

The  three  panels,  arranged  on  the  wall  of  the  Film  and 
Video  Gallery,  offer  a  static  image  which,  together  with  the 
moving  video  image,  constitute  a  layered  text  of  meanings. 
Each  panel  presents  a  photographic  blow-up  of  a  moment 
from  the  videotapes  playing  on  the  monitors.  The  pulsating 
action  of  the  commercial  and  program  introduction  shifts 
the  point  of  view  as  the  illusory  two-dimensional  space  of 
the  photographs  is  contrasted  with  that  of  the  videotape. 
The  kaleidoscopic  content  and  juxtaposition  of  sound  and 
words  to  image,  both  frozen  and  moving,  not  only  create  a 
complex  visual  surface,  but  expose  the  dark  side  of  broad- 
cast television.  PM  Magazine  thus  engages  the  issues  of 
power  and  sexuality  through  a  critical  joining  of  television's 
ideology  of  representation  in  narrative  and  advertising. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

PM  Magazine 

PM  Magazine  represents  the  culmination  of  a  series  of 
works,  dating  from  1978  to  1982,  which  deal  directly  with 
television  imagery  and  ideology.  Made  from  TV  fragments 
and  the  reconstructed  conventions  of  television,  the  work 
can  be  seen  as  new  "ready-mades"  for  the  late  twentieth 
century.  Images  are  cut  from  their  original  narrative  and 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


interwoven  with  layers  of  musical  text  in  order  to  plunge 
the  viewer  into  the  experience  of  TV,  rather  than  simply 
the  watching  of  it.  TV  conventions  are  used,  exploited,  and 
turned  on  themselves  to  reveal  the  underside  of  a  seeming- 
ly rational  technology.  Through  formal  devices  such  as 
repetition,  "matte"  effects  — new  framing  for  the  original 
television  material— and  altered  syntax,  television  is  ma- 
nipulated before  it  manipulates  us:  visual  rap,  scratch,  and 
breaking  tracks  for  the  1980s.  Twentieth-century  speed  is 
suspended  for  the  viewer's  examination  and  interpretation. 

Generally  in  the  1960s  and  early  1970s,  artists'  video  was 
defined  as  the  extended  vocabulary  of  the  traditional  arts 
(painting,  sculpture,  and  performance).  This  usually  meant 
a  necessary  denial  of  the  origin  and  nature  of  video  itself, 
television.  It  is  my  intention  to  give  the  medium  back  its  in- 
stitutional and  historical  base  so  that  new  forms  of  artistic 
expression  can  be  developed.  The  installation  PM Maga- 
zine derives  its  material  from  the  introduction  to  a  nightly 
national  broadcast  of  the  same  name  as  well  as  a  televised 
commercial  for  the  Wang  Corporation.  From  within  sus- 
pended renderings  — enlarged  freeze-frames  from  each  of 
the  sources  — the  newly  indelible  image  of  a  girl  at  a  home 
computer  exchanges  glances  with  an  innocent  girl  eating 
ice  cream.  Through  the  use  of  highly  edited  and  computer- 
ized visuals  and  sound,  a  split  second  in  each  of  the  stereo- 
typical characters'  existence  is  captured  and  played  with. 
From  the  tableaux  (both  sign  and  stage-prop)  emanates  a 
continuous  flow  of  PM  Magazine's  postwar  imagery  signi- 
fying the  American  Dream  — an  ice  skater,  baton  twirler, 
cheerleader,  and  the  constant  repetition  of  the  youth  lick- 
ing ice  cream.  The  viewer  is  caught  in  the  experience  of 
TV's  stereotyped  gestures  of  power  and  submission,  of  self- 
preservation  and  concealment,  of  male  and  female  ego. 
Gesture  is  seen  not  as  an  opening  to  communication,  rather 
as  a  form  of  constraint. 

"Video  is  dead;  that  is,  in  its  defined  role  as  video  art 
and  its  relation  to  the  defined  art  gallery  system.  But  video 
is  alive  in  its  indefinable  relation  to  the  industry  and  rate  of 
conversion  which  exchanges  the  currency  of  TV  for  the 
currency  of  art."  (Dara  Birnbaum,  ZG,  3  (London,  1981) 

Dara  Birnbaum 

Biography 

Born  in  New  York,  Dara  Birnbaum  came  to  video  in  1978  with  degrees  in 
both  architecture  (Carnegie  Institute  of  Technology,  1969)  and  painting 
(San  Francisco  Art  Institute,  1973) .  Her  video  works  have  achieved  inter- 
national recognition  and  have  been  shown  at  The  Museum  of  Modern 
Art,  New  York,  the  Stedelijk  Museum,  Amsterdam,  Kunsthaus,  Zurich, 
the  Moderna  Museet,  Stockholm,  and  elsewhere.  Her  work  has  taken  her 
to  such  varied  venues  as  the  markets  and  streets  of  Bologna,  Grand  Cen- 
tral Station,  film  festivals,  rock  clubs,  and  broadcast  and  cable  TV.  Birn- 
baum received  a  Creative  Artists  Public  Service  grant  in  1981.  A  grant 
from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  in  1983  enabled  her  to  create 
Damnation  of  Faust:  Evocation,  a  single-channel  videotape  showing  the 
life  of  a  New  York  City  playground  and  bringing  the  conventions  of  nine- 
teenth-century Japanese  painting  to  state-of-the-art  video  technology. 
Birnbaum  has  taught  at  numerous  institutions,  including  the  California 
Institute  of  the  Arts,  Valencia,  and  the  Nova  Scotia  College  of  Art  and 
Design,  Halifax.  Currently  she  teaches  at  the  School  of  Visual  Arts,  New 
York.  A  book  on  her  work,  Dara  Birnbaum:  Rough  Edits:  Fbpular  Image 
Video,  is  due  for  publication  in  1984  by  The  Press  of  the  Nova  Scotia  Col- 
lege of  Art  and  Design. 


Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

The  Kitchen  Center  for  Video,  Music  and  Dance,  New  York,  1978;  The 
Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Video  Viewpoints,"  1981;  Pacific  Film 
Archives,  Berkeley,  California,  1981;  The  Hudson  River  Museum,  Yon- 
kers,  New  York,  "Art  and  Technology:  Approaches  to  Video,"  1982;  Insti- 
tute of  Contemporary  Arts,  London,  1982;  Museum  van  Hedendaagse 
Kunsten,  Ghent,  Belgium,  1982;  RTBF,  Liege,  Belgium,  "Video?  vous 
avez  dit  Video?"  1982;  Stedelijk  Museum,  Amsterdam,  "'60'80  Attitudes/ 
Concepts/Images,"  1982;  Musee  dArt  Contemporain,  Montreal,  1983; 
Pittsburgh  Film-Makers,  Pennsylvania,  "Video  in  Person,"  1983. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Kunsthaus,  Zurich,  "New  York  Video,"  1980;  San  Francisco  International 
Video  Festival  (and  traveling  exhibition),  1981;  The  Art  Institute  of  Chi- 
cago, "74th  American  Exhibition,"  1982;  Kassel,  West  Germany,  "Docu- 
menta  7,"  1982;  lie  Festival  International  du  Nouveau  Cinema,  Montreal, 
1982;  USA  Cable  Network,  "Nightflight,"  1982;  American  Film  Institute, 
Los  Angeles  and  Washington,  D.C. ,  "National  Video  Festival,"  1983;  An- 
tenne  2  (French  television),  "Juste  une  Image,"  1983;  The  Museum  of  Mod- 
ern Art,  New  York,  "Video:  A  History,"  1983;  San  Sebastian  Film  Festival, 
San  Sebastian,  Spam,  1983. 

Selected  Videography 

(A)Dnft  of  Politics  (Laverne  &  Shirley),  1978.  Color,  sound;  3-minute 

loop;  installation. 
Technology/Transformation:  Wonder  Woman,  1978.  Color,  stereo  sound; 

7  minutes. 
Kiss  the  Girls:  Make  Them  Cry,  1979.  Color,  stereo  sound;  7  minutes. 
Local  TV  News  Analysis ,  1980.  With  Dan  Graham.  Color,  stereo  sound; 

60  minutes. 
Pop-Pop  Video:  General  Hospital/Olympic  Women  Speed  Skating,  1980. 

Color,  stereo  sound;  6  minutes. 
Pop-Pop  Video:  Kojak/Wang ,  1980.  Color,  stereo  sound;  4  minutes. 
Remy/Grand  Central:  Trains  and  Boats  and  Planes ,  1980.  Commissioned 

by  Remy  Martin  for  Grand  Central  Station,  New  York.  Color,  stereo 

sound;  4  minutes. 
Afeiv  Music  Shorts,  1981.  Color,  stereo  sound;  5  minutes. 
Fire!,  1982.  Commissioned  by  VideoGram  International  Ltd.  Color,  stereo 

sound;  3  minutes. 
PM  Magazine/ Acid  Rock ,  1982.  Color,  stereo  sound;  4  minutes. 
Damnation  of  Faust:  Evocation,  1983.  Color,  stereo  sound;  10  minutes. 
Dara  Birnbaum's  videotapes  are  distributed  by  Electronic  Arts  Intermix 
and  The  Kitchen  Center  for  Video,  Music,  Dance,  Performance  and  Film, 
New  York;  Art  Metropole,  Toronto;  and  Video  Data  Bank,  Chicago. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Birnbaum,  Dara.  "Populism  Report  from  the  Field:  Up  Against  the  Wall," 

Art  Com,  no.  20  (1983),  pp.  25-26. 
.  "Video/Video-Television:  Notions  On  and  Offerings  To."  In  W80 

Attitudes/Concepts/Images  (exhibition  catalogue  supplement).  Am- 
sterdam: Stedelijk  Museum,  1982,  pp.  13,  34-37. 
Brooks,  Rosetta.  "TV  Transformations:  An  Examination  of  the  Videotapes 

of  New  York  Artist  Dara  Birnbaum," ZG,  1  (London,  1981),  unpaginated. 
Buchloh,  Benjamin  H.  D.  "Allegorical  Procedures:  Appropriation  and 

Montage  in  Contemporary  Art,"  Artforum,  21  (September  1982),  pp. 

43-56. 
Coopman,  Johan.  "Dara  Birnbaum,"  Andere  Sinema,  December  1982, 

pp.  12-14. 
Hoberman,  J.  "Three  Women,"  The  Village  Voice,  May  5,  1980,  p.  42. 
Owens,  Craig.  "Phantasmagoria  of  the  Media,"  Art  in  America,  70  (May 

1982),  pp.  98-100. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours: 

Tuesday  11:00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  c  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    15 
The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Margia  Kramer 


March  13- April  8,  1984 


Progress  (Memory),  1983-84.  Video  installation 
On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  March  15,  at  2:00 
Margia  Kramer  will  be  present 


Credits: 

The  first  installation  of  Progress  (Memory)  took  place  at  the  Visual  Stud- 
ies Workshop  in  November-December  1983.  Very  special  thanks  to  the 
Workshop,  Daniel  Shapiro,  Jeremy  Shapiro,  Naomi  Hupert,  Tom  Brad- 
ley, Nicholas  Frey  Bennett,  and  Gary  Goldberg.  For  the  videotape 
Progress  and  Access,  thanks  to  Vincent  Mosco,  Herbert  Schiller,  Stan- 
ley Aronowitz,  Joan  Greenbaum,  Loren  Shumway,  Cheshire  Catalyst, 
Dragon  Lady,  Mike  McCullough  and  Jon  Rynn,  the  Institute  for  Eco- 
nomic Analysis  and  the  Alternate  Media  Center  of  New  York  University, 
the  Bread  and  Puppet  Theater,  and  John  Berger.  For  production  and 
postproduction  assistance,  thanks  to  Maria  Marewski,  Ellen  Kuras, 
Bonnie  Burt,  Tish  Rosen,  Hans  Kulleseid,  Sylvia  Scholar,  Susanna  Aiken, 
Robin  Schanzenbach,  Mary  Frey,  Bill  Marpet,  DeeDee  Halleck,  Temple 
University,  and  the  University  of  Hartford. 

Progress  (Memory)  has  been  funded  in  part  with  grants  from  the  Vis- 
ual Studies  Workshop  and  the  Committee  for  the  Visual  Arts. 

Margia  Kramer's  video  installation  Progress  (Memory) 
(1983-84)  takes  as  its  subject  the  production  and  distribu- 
tion of  information  through  new  technologies.  This  inter- 
active project  invites  the  viewer  to  engage  in  an  inguiry 
into  the  complex  social  and  ethical  guestions  raised  by  the 
accelerating  spread  of  technology  into  all  areas  of  society. 
Thus  the  spectator  pedaling  the  exercycle  in  Progress 
(Memory)  sets  into  play  a  videotape  which  can  be  viewed 
on  monitors.  This  videotape  documents  and  critically  in- 


Progress  (Memory),  1983-84.  Video  installation  at  the  Visual  Studies  Workshop, 
Rochester,  New  York.  Photograph  by  Mike  Zirkle. 


Progress  (Memory),  1983-84.  Video  installation  at  the  Visual  Studies  Workshop, 
Rochester,  New  York.  Photograph  by  Ed  Reed. 


terprets  the  nature  of  computer  uses  and  information- 
processing  technologies  and  how  they  are  being  employed 
in  the  home  and  office.  Here  we  learn  how  this  revolution 
in  technology  will  transform  the  ways  we  produce,  gain 
access  to,  and  ultimately  control  the  distribution  of  infor- 
mation. By  pedaling  the  exercycle,  the  spectator  acts  as  a 
generator,  an  activist  who  produces  and  distributes  the  in- 
formation to  the  other  viewers  in  the  gallery.  This  linking  of 
the  videotape's  movement  to  physical  action  turns  the  per- 
ception of  TV  into  a  model  of  personal  and  direct  partici- 
pation. 

Progress  (Memory),  in  its  treatment  of  social  issues  as 
related  to  television,  has  as  its  historical  context  the  devel- 
oping history  of  video  installation  art,  which  has  appropri- 
ated the  TV  set  in  order  to  transform  its  uses.  In  the  first 
Fluxus  exhibitions  of  the  early  1960s,  Nam  June  Paik  and 
Volf  Vostell  took  the  TV  out  of  its  familiar  surroundings  and 
reworked  its  reception  of  broadcast  images.  This  action 
served  as  a  provocative  revision  of  the  conventional  view- 
ing and  function  of  the  TV  receiver  as  a  cultural  icon  and 
social  commodity.  With  the  introduction  of  the  portable 
video  camera  in  1965,  an  increasing  number  of  artists  have 
been  producing  videotapes  and  installations  that  have 
changed  the  way  we  use  and  think  about  TV  and  video. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Today  we  are  entering  a  period  of  enormous  change, 
where  the  video  artist  faces  new  options  —  more  flexible 
cameras,  editing  systems,  distribution  networks,  and  small- 
gauge  production  possibilities.  Video  culture  is  now  ex- 
panding through  home  use  of  the  TV  and  information 
processing  — the  introduction,  for  example,  of  interactive 
cable  systems  where  the  home  user  can  respond  to  and  se- 
lect information  from  various  cable  networks.  Margia  Kra- 
mer, in  Progress  (Memory),  guestions  the  uses  of  future 
technologies  as  she  critically  appropriates  their  systems 
and  constructs  experiences  for  us  that  initiate  a  critical  ex- 
amination of  video,  as  well  as  an  examination  of  our  think- 
ing about  art  and  technology. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

Progress  (Memory) 

The  machine-like  behaviour  of  people  chained  to  elec- 
tronics constitutes  a  degradation  of  their  well-being 
and  their  dignify. . . .  The  political  process  breaks  down, 
because  people  cease  to  be  able  to  govern  themselves; 

they  demand  to  be  managed. 

—Ivan  Illich 

Computerization  contributes  to  the  isolating  tendencies  of 
capitalist  culture.  It  orders  the  parts  of  society  mechanically, 
but  it  has  no  sense  of  the  whole.  Computerization's  inabil- 
ity to  meet  human  needs  is  masked  by  its  obvious  efficiency 
and  profitability. 

People's  lives  will  be  controlled  by  computerized  deci- 
sions to  a  greater  extent  as  time  goes  on.  For  the  sake  of 
efficient  management  these  decisions  become  centralized 
and  bureaucratized.  In  this  process  of  communication,  in- 
formation becomes  inaccessible  to  the  average  person.  In 
return,  the  system,  which  is  no  longer  regulated  by  the 
government  for  the  public  good,  resists  change  and  in- 
creasingly monitors  people. 

Progress  (Memory)  (1983-84)  is  a  three-ring,  viewer- 
activated  video  installation.  It  raises  some  of  the  negative 
issues  of  computerization  and  offers  positive  experiences 
for  viewers.  With  various  physical  and  cultural  materials  it 
identifies  some  of  the  repressive  trends  and  liberating  po- 
tential of  the  information  industry.  In  a  direct,  physical  way, 
participants  will  experience  their  own  feelings  of  control 
over  their  activities. 

On  the  first  rug  there  is  a  television  set  with  a  videotape 
of  a  young  infant  and  a  nearby  lamp.  An  exercycle  stands 
on  the  second  rug.  Viewers  ride  it  to  activate  two  video 
monitors  which  play  a  videotape,  Progress  and  Access.  A 
piano  is  on  the  third  rug.  When  a  viewer  sits  on  the  piano 
bench,  the  video  monitor  is  activated  to  play  a  computer- 
ized Bach  program.  All  around  the  space,  the  human 
images  and  sounds  of  music  and  children  are  contrasted 
with  the  binary  language  of  computers  on  the  VCRs. 

Margia  Kramer 

Biography 

Margia  Kramer  was  born  in  Brooklyn  and  grew  up  near  Coney  Island. 
She  earned  a  B.A.  degree  in  studio  art  at  Brooklyn  College,  where  she 
studied  with  Ad  Reinhardt,  and  an  M.A.  degree  in  art  history  at  the  Insti- 


tute of  Fine  Arts,  New  York  University,  where  she  was  a  Woodrow  Wilson 
Fellow.  She  has  been  an  assistant  professor  at  the  University  of  Illinois, 
Chicago  Circle,  and  Duke  University,  Durham,  North  Carolina.  Kramer 
is  a  leader  in  new  documentary  and  activist  art;  her  writings  have  ap- 
peared in  Jumpcut,  Wedge,  and  Women  Artists  News,  and  she  has  self- 
published  three  books.  She  has  received  grants  from  the  National  En- 
dowment for  the  Arts,  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Humanities,  the 
New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  the  Illinois  Arts  Council,  and  the 
MacDowell  Colony,  among  others.  She  has  traveled  widely  in  Eastern 
and  Western  Europe  and  Asia.  Kramer  has  two  children  and  lives  and 
works  in  New  York  and  Hartford,  Connecticut,  where  she  teaches  film 
and  video  at  the  University  of  Hartford. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Sarah  Lawrence  College  Art  Gallery,  Bronxville,  New  York,  "New  Work," 
1977;  Palace  of  Sport,  Bucharest,  Rumania,  1979;  Artists  Space,  New 
York,  "Secret  I,"  1980;  Duke  University  Art  Gallery,  Durham,  North  Car- 
olina, "Retrospective  and  Secret  II,"  1980;  Franklin  Furnace  and  Printed 
Matter,  New  York,  "Secret  III  and  Secret  IV,"  1980;  A  Space,  Toronto, 
"Jean  Seberg,"  1981;  Artemisia  Gallery,  Chicago,  1981;  The  Museum  of 
Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Jean  Seberg/The  FBI/The  Media,"  1981;  Visual 
Studies  Workshop,  Rochester,  New  York,  "Video  Installation  1983,"  1983; 
Vassar  College  Art  Gallery,  Poughkeepsie,  New  York,  "The  Artist's  Per- 
ception: 1948/1984,"  1984. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Institute  of  Contemporary  Arts,  London,  "Issues,"  1980;  John  F.  Kennedy 
Center,  Washington,  D.C.,  "First  National  Video  Festival,"  1981;  Just 
Above  Midtown/Downtown,  New  York,  "Decision  by  Arms,"  1982;  "1982 
CAPS  Video/Multi-Media  Festival"  (traveling  exhibition),  1982-83;  Global 
Village,  New  York,  "Ninth  Global  Village  Documentary  Festival,"  1983. 

Videography 

Freedom  of  Information  Work  Tape  I:  Jean  Seberg,  1980.  Two  channels, 

color,  34  inch,  sound;  18  minutes. 
Afo  More  Witchhunts:  A  Street  Festival,  1982.  Two  channels,  color,  3A  inch, 

sound;  17  minutes. 
Freedom  of  Information  Tape  2:  Progress  and  Access,  1983.  Two  channels, 

color,  3A  inch,  sound;  36  minutes. 
Margia  Kramer's  videotapes  are  distributed  by  the  Video  Data  Bank, 
Chicago,  and  her  books  are  distributed  by  Printed  Matter,  New  York. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Agosta,  Diana,  and  Barbara  Osborn.  "If  I  Ever  Stop  Believing  . . ."  Here- 
sies: A  Feminist  Publication  on  Art  &  Politics:  Film/Video/Media ,  4 
(Issue  16),  pp.  68-72. 

Ashton,  Dore.  American  Art  Since  1945 .  New  York:  Oxford  University 
Press,  1982,  pp.  197-99. 

Hills,  Patricia.  Social  Concern  in  the  Eighties:  A  New  England  Perspec- 
tive (exhibition  catalogue).  Boston:  Boston  University  Art  Gallery, 
1984,  pp.  6,  21. 

Kramer,  Margia.  "Making  Art  of  Politics  (Notes  on  Art  as  Intervention)," 
Women  Artists  News,  6  (May  1980),  pp.  14-15. 

.  "Notes  on  Expression/Repression,"  Wedge:  An  Aesthetic  Inguiry, 

Summer  1982,  pp.  30-34. 

,  and  Kimberley  SaHord.  "Jean  Seberg/The  FBI/The  Media,"  Jump- 


cut,  Winter  1983,  pp.  68-71. 

Lippard,  Lucy.  Issue:  Social  Strategies  by  Women  Artists  (exhibition  cat- 
alogue). London:  Institute  of  Contemporary  Arts,  1980,  unpaginated. 

Rice,  Shelley.  Video  Installation  1983  (exhibition  catalogue).  Rochester, 
New  York:  Visual  Studies  Workshop,  1983,  unpaginated. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  11:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  o  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


] 
8    The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 


EXHIBITIONS   OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Paul  Sharits 


April  17-May  13,  1984 


3rd  Degree,  1982.  Film  installation 

On  view  continuously  12:00-6:00,  Tuesdays  until  8:00 

Credits: 

Actress:  Mary  Ann  Bruno;  voice:  Susan  Mann;  simulation  of  rattle- 
snake sound:  Robert  Franki;  sound  production  assistance:  Ken 
Rowe;  visual  production  and  general  assistance:  Steve  Gallagher. 

The  medium  of  film  is  conventionally  viewed  within  a  the- 
atrical context  in  which  the  projected  film  image  appears 
on  a  screen,  before  rows  of  seated  spectators.  In  this  tradi- 
tional arena  of  narrative  cinema,  the  technology  of  film 
production  and  exhibition  is  invisible  to  the  viewer.  How- 
ever, within  the  aesthetics  of  modernism,  filmmakers  have 
sought  to  establish  a  commentary  on  the  film  production 
process  and  make  that  process  part  of  the  film  itself.  Since 
the  development  of  multimedia  arts  and  Happenings  of  the 
1960s,  artists  have  transformed  our  perception  of  film  by,  for 
instance,  placing  projectors  in  gallery  and  performance 
spaces.  They  seek  to  treat  film  as  a  flexible  medium  in  which 
the  projected  image  is  created  for,  and  projected  onto,  dif- 
ferent materials  and  surfaces.  One  of  the  leading  figures  in 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  April  19,  at  2:00 
Paul  Sharits  will  be  present 


this  expanded  form  of  film  art  is  Paul  Sharits,  whose  latest 
film  installation,  3rd  Degree  (1982),  explores  the  material 
of  film  and  the  technigue  of  multiple  projection  within  the 
gallery  space. 

As  in  Paul  Sharits'  other  film  installations,  3rd  Degree 
employs  specially  modified  16mm  loop  projectors  that  per- 
mit the  twenty-four-minute  film  to  be  shown  continuously 
during  gallery  hours.  In  his  earlier  piece  Episodic  Gener- 
ation (1979),  four  aligned  projectors  presented  a  continu- 
ous seguence  of  moving  images.  In  3rd  Degree  Sharits 
positions  the  three  projectors  at  different  distances  from  the 
gallery  wall  so  that  each  image  differs  in  scale.  He  synchro- 
nizes the  movement  of  the  three  films  through  the  projec- 
tors to  develop  visual  relationships  between  the  projected 
images.  Because  the  two  larger  images  are  successive  re- 
f ilmings  of  the  first,  layers  of  time  are  created,  thus  disrupt- 
ing and  expanding  the  temporal  dimension  of  the  original 
footage. 


Study  for  3rd  Degree,  1982.  Ink,  pastel 
on  vellum  with  grid,  18  x  23  inches. 
Collection  of  the  artist.  Photograph 
by  Geoffrey  Clements. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


In  3rd  Degree  Paul  Sharits  confronts  the  material  basis 
of  film  celluloid  by  "burning"  the  individual  frames.  The 
exploding  image  of  overheated  film  is  not  unfamiliar  to  fre- 
quent film  users;  when  a  film  becomes  caught  in  the  pro- 
jector gate,  a  frame  is  burned  by  the  heat  of  the  projector's 
bulb  and  begins  to  bubble  and  melt.  Sharits  uses  this  "ac- 
cident" as  a  means  to  alter  the  material  of  film:  the  film's 
image  becomes  a  painter's  canvas,  with  its  representational 
surface  image  torn  apart  to  expose  a  collage  of  new  colors, 
textures,  and  image-making  gualities.  This  concentration 
on  the  film  image  made  abstract  through  the  chemical 
properties  of  celluloid  and  the  light  of  the  projector  removes 
film  from  its  traditional  setting  and  transforms  it  into  a  new 
kind  of  image-making. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 

3rd  Degree 

In  Part  I  (or  screen  A,  in  the  three-screen  version)  there  is 
an  image  of  a  moving  strip  of  film,  showing  sequences  of  a 
close-up  of  a  match  being  waved  somewhat  aggressively 
in  front  of  a  young  woman's  apprehensive  face.  The  sound 
track:  occasional  match  striking  and  rattlesnake  warnings 
and  the  words,  "Look,  I  won't  talk."  The  strip  of  images  flows 
at  varying  speeds,  sometimes  blurring  and  occasionally 
slowing  and  coming  to  a  stop,  whereupon  the  image/cellu- 
loid begins  bubbling  and  burning,  then  pulls  away,  flow- 
ing on  and  stopping,  burning,  flowing,  etc.  The  second 
part  (or  center  screen  in  the  installation)  is  the  first  part  re- 
photographed;  again  it's  "stop  and  go"  — but  here  we  also 
see  images  of  burns,  which  sometimes  stop  and  burn  (a 
sort  of  second-degree  burning).  In  Part  III  we  see  the  re- 
photographed  image  of  Part  II,  which  contains  Part  I,  so  it 
is  a  film  of  a  film  of  a  film  (of  a  film  of  the  original  film  of  the 
victim  being  "interrogated"  with  the  match);  we  see  three 
sets  of  sprocket  holes  and  images  of  burns  being  burned 
yet  again. 

The  film  is  about  the  fragility  of  the  film  medium  and  hu- 
man vulnerability;  both  the  filmic  and  the  human  images 
resist  threat/intimidation/mutilation:  the  victim  is  defiant 
and  the  filmstrip  also  struggles  on,  both  "under  fire."  It  is  a 
somewhat  violent  drama  but  it  is  also  an  ironically  comic 
work,  and  there  is  a  formal  beauty  in  the  destructiveness  of 
the  burning  film.  While  the  film  (from  section  to  section  or 
from  screen  to  screen,  in  the  installation  format)  develops, 
becomes  more  visually  complex,  successively  regenerates 
(as  the  figurative  images  degenerate),  it  nevertheless  im- 
plies no  finality;  rather,  even  in  its  three-screen  "vicious 
circularity"  form,  3rd  Degree  suggests  endurance,  exten- 
sion, and  ongoingness. 

Paul  Sharits 


Biography 

Paul  Sharits,  a  painter  as  well  as  a  filmmaker,  was  born  in  Denver  in  1943. 
He  received  a  Bachelor  of  Fine  Arts  in  painting  from  the  University  of 
Denver  in  1964,  and  a  Master  of  Fine  Arts  in  visual  design  from  Indiana 
University  in  1966.  One  of  his  multiple-projection  works,  Episodic  Gen- 


eration (1979),  was  shown  at  the  Whitney  Museum  in  the  "1981  Biennial 
Exhibition."  He  has  been  awarded  grants  from  the  American  Film  Insti- 
tute (1968),  the  Ford  Foundation  (1970,  1971),  the  National  Endowment 
for  the  Arts  (1974,  1976,  1979),  the  Creative  Artists  Public  Service  of  the 
New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  (1975,  1978),  and  the  New  York  State 
Council  on  the  Arts  (1976).  Widely  published,  Sharits  has  also  been  the 
subject  of  numerous  articles  and  essays.  He  has  lectured  around  the  world, 
and  his  work  is  included  in  international  public  and  private  collections. 
Sharits  is  Associate  Professor  of  Film  and  Director  of  Undergraduate 
Studies  at  the  Center  for  Media  Study,  State  University  of  New  York  at 
Buffalo,  and  lives  in  Buffalo. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Bykert  Gallery,  New  York,  1972, 1974;  GalerieRicke,  Cologne,  1974;  Al- 
bright-Knox  Art  Gallery,  Buffalo,  1976;  Droll/Kolbert  Gallery,  New  York, 
1977;  Galerie  A',  Amsterdam,  1977;  Galerie  Ricke,  Cologne,  1977;  Musee 
National  dArt  Moderne,  Centre  Georges  Pompidou,  Paris,  1977;  An- 
thology Film  Archives,  New  York,  1978;  Art  Gallery  of  Ontario,  Toronto, 
1978;  Wright  State  University  Art  Gallery,  Dayton,  Ohio,  1981. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Documenta  5,  Kassel,  West  Germany,  1972;  American  Film  Institute,  John 
F.  Kennedy  Center  for  the  Performing  Arts,  Washington,  D.C.,  "Film 
As/On  Art,"  in  association  with  the  exhibition  "Art  Now  74,"  1974;  Walker 
Art  Center,  Minneapolis,  "Projected  Images,"  1974;  Musee  National  dArt 
Moderne,  Centre  Georges  Pompidou,  "Une  Histoire  du  Cinema,"  1976; 
Documenta  6,  Kassel,  West  Germany,  1977;  Whitney  Museum  of  Ameri- 
can Art,  New  York,  "1981  Biennial  Exhibition";  Stedelijk  Museum,  Am- 
sterdam, "'60'80:  Attitudes/Concepts/Images,"  1982. 

Selected  Filmography 

All  films  are  16mm. 

Piece  Mandala/End  War,  1966.  Color,  silent;  5  minutes. 

Ray  Gun  Virus,  1966.  Color,  (sprocket)  sound;  14  minutes. 

N:0:T:H:I:N:G,  1968.  Color,  sound;  36  minutes. 

T,0,U,C,H,I,N,G,  1968.  Color,  sound;  12  minutes. 

Razor  Blades  (double  projection),  1965-68.  Color  and  black  and  white, 
stereo  sound;  25  minutes. 

S: TREAM:S:S:ECTION:S:ECTION:S:S:ECTIONED,  1968-71 .  Color, 
sound;  42  minutes. 

SYNCHRONOUSOUNDTRACKS  (double  projection),  1973-74.  Color, 
stereo  sound;  35  minutes. 

Color  Sound  Frames,  1974.  Color,  sound;  26'/2  minutes. 

Tails,  1976.  Color,  silent;  4  minutes  at  18  frames  per  second  (fps),  3  min- 
utes at  24  fps. 

Episodic  Generation  (single-screen  version),  1977-78.  Color,  sound; 
30  minutes. 

3rd  Degree  (single-screen  version),  1982.  Color,  sound;  30  minutes. 

Paul  Sharits'  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers'  Cooperative 

and  Castelli-Sonnabend  Tapes  and  Films,  New  York,  Canyon  Cinema, 

San  Francisco,  and  other  international  distributors. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Film  Culture:  Paul  Sharits.  No.  65-66,  1978. 

Sharits,  Paul.  "Notes  on  Films/1966-1968."  Film  Culture,  No.  47,  Summer 

1969,  pp.  13-16. 
Sitney,  P.  Adams.  Visionary  Film:  The  American  Avant-Garde  1943- 

1978.  Second  edition.  New  York:  Oxford  University  Press,  1979,  pp. 

369,  374,  385-89. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours: 

Tuesday  11:00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  c  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    17 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Oscar  Micheaux 


May  22- June  10,  1984 


Schedule 
May  22-27 
12:30 

Body  and  Soul,  1924.  Silent,  70  minutes 
3:00;  also  Tuesday,  May  22,  at  6:00 
The  Exile,  1931.  60  minutes 

May  29-lune  3 

12:30 

Ten  Minutes  to  Live,  1932.  63  minutes 

3:00;  also  Tuesday,  May  29,  at  6:00 

Swing:  The  Story  ol  Mandy ,  1936.  65  minutes 

June  5-10 

12:30 

Lying  Lips,  1939.  60  minutes;  The  Underworld,  1936.  65  minutes 

3:00 

God's  Step  Children,  1938.  65  minutes 

Tuesday,  June  5,  at  6:00 

The  Underworld,  1936.  65  minutes 

A  trailer  for  the  films  Birthright  (1939)  and  God's  Step  Children 
(1938)  will  be  shown  along  with  the  feature  at  the  Tuesday  evening 
screenings. 


Oscar  Micheaux  was  one  of  the  best  known  and  most  pro- 
lific black  filmmakers  of  the  1920s.  During  the  silent  era,  he 
produced  more  than  twenty  titles,  which  he  also  distributed 
through  direct  bookings  in  movie  houses  in  black  urban 
areas  and  in  the  segregated  theaters  of  the  South. 

Micheaux  was  born  on  a  farm  in  southern  Illinois  in  1884. 
He  was  one  of  thirteen  children.  At  the  age  of  seventeen  he 
left  home  to  find  work  and  learn  a  trade.  Five  years  later, 
after  working  as  a  shoeshine  boy,  laborer,  and  Pullman  car 
porter,  he  used  his  savings  to  buy  a  homestead  in  South 
Dakota.  In  1913  he  published  his  first  novel,  The  Conquest: 
Story  of  a  Negro  Pioneer  Homesteader.  He  turned  his  sec- 
ond novel,  The  Homesteader,  into  a  film  in  1918.  Micheaux 
financed  the  film  in  the  same  way  he  had  financed  the  pub- 
lication of  the  book  — by  selling  shares  in  his  Western  Book 
Supply  Co.  to  the  white  farmers  he  had  written  about.  He 
raised  $15,000  to  produce  The  Homesteader,  the  first  fea- 
ture-length independent  black  production. 

The  Homesteader  opened  in  1918  in  Chicago  after  some 
controversy  over  Micheaux's  depiction  of  the  hero's  father- 
in-law,  a  minister  described  in  the  press  copy  as  "narrow, 
spiteful,  envious . . .  the  embodiment  of  vanity,  deceit,  and 
hypocrisy."  Micheaux  was  to  rework  the  same  evil  minister 
character  in  a  later  work,  Body  and  Soul  (1924).  As  a  shrewd 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  May  24,  following  the 
12:30  screening.  Pearl  Bowser  will  be  present. 


■•  ,ju<i,.».  'COD'S  STEP  CHILDREN  oloredcast 

Carman  Newsome  and  Ethel  Moses  in  God's  Step  Children,  1938. 

businessman  and  promoter,  he  used  the  controversy  his 
films  generated  to  draw  his  audiences.  If  a  local  censorship 
board  forced  him  to  remove  certain  scenes,  in  the  next 
town  he  would  reinsert  the  material,  advertising  the  film  as 
"the  uncut  version." 

Micheaux  was  an  imposing  figure  and  a  persuasive  talk- 
er, who  could  convince  local  businessmen  to  invest  in  his 
company  and  theater  managers  to  book  his  films  and  ad- 
vance monies  for  a  new  project.  While  on  the  road  selling 
his  latest  novel  or  booking  films,  he  scouted  for  new  talent 
and  interesting  sites  for  his  next  project.  Shingzie  Howard, 
star  of  The  House  Behind  the  Cedars  (1923),  was  discovered 
while  Micheaux  was  selling  books  to  her  minister  father  in 
Stelton,  Pennsylvania.  She  played  bit  parts  in  Micheaux's 
films  and  doubled  as  his  secretary  before  getting  the  lead 
role  in  The  House  Behind  the  Cedars,  a  film  developed  from 
the  novel  by  C.  W.  Chestnut. 

Whether  the  themes  of  his  films  were  based  on  his  own 
writings,  those  of  other  novelists,  or  on  newspaper  stories, 
they  focused  on  the  black  experience  in  America  and  often 
inspired  heated  debate.  Micheaux  sought,  in  his  own  words, 
"to  present  the  truth,  to  lay  before  the  race  a  cross  section  of 
its  own  life,  to  view  the  colored  heart  from  close  range. . . ." 
He  perceived  his  films  as  tools  to  expose  injustice  and  to 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


counter  the  narrow  stereotypical  image  of  blacks  in  Holly- 
wood movies.  The  Brute  (1921)  explored  the  mistreatment 
of  black  women.  The  House  Behind  the  Cedars  dealt  with 
interracial  marriage.  Within  Our  Gates  (1920)  showed 
scenes  of  lynchings  and  burnings  in  a  tale  about  share- 
cropping  on  a  southern  plantation.  In  Symbol  of  the  Un- 
conquered  (1920) ,  the  hero  takes  on  the  Ku  Klux  Klan,  and 
The  Gunsaulus  Mystery  (1921),  based  on  the  Leo  Frank 
murder  case  in  Georgia,  bore  a  striking  resemblance  to 
the  controversial  lynching  scenes  in  Within  Our  Gates. 
Other  films  took  a  hard  look  at  color  bias  within  the  race, 
the  fate  of  illegitimate  children,  prostitution,  the  rackets  in 
boxing,  and  the  numbers  games. 

Micheaux's  films  were  bold  and  naturalistic  in  style,  their 
effort  enhanced  by  "real"  locations  and  dialect.  But,  with 
an  eye  to  his  audience,  he  wove  entertainment  into  the 
plots,  using  nightclub  seguences  for  comic  relief  (Ten 
Minutes  to  Live,  1932)  or  as  transitions  between  scenes. 
Nightclubs  were  also  "free  sets"  which  he  would  sometimes 
invite  the  public  to  fill  for  his  movie  shoot.  He  would  then 
advertise  that  they  could  come  and  see  themselves  on  the 
screen.  In  Ten  Minutes  to  Live,  the  climax  of  the  film  takes 
place  on  the  dance  floor  of  a  nightclub,  a  diversion  many 
moviegoers  couldn't  afford;  for  those  who  lived  in  rural  com- 
munities, such  scenes  provided  a  glimpse  into  the  nightlife 
of  the  big  city. 

Nightclub  scenes,  which  required  little  dialogue,  also  sat- 
isfied the  audience  that  craved  the  "all  singing,  all  dancing" 
talking  pictures.  Micheaux  here  employed  a  practice  prev- 
alent in  Hollywood  films  of  a  few  years  earlier:  passing  off  a 
sound  track  with  music  and  effects  — and  very  little  re- 
corded speech— as  a  talking  picture.  In  Ten  Minutes  to  Live 
the  villain  is  a  deaf-mute  who  must  write  notes  to  talk  with 
his  girlfriend.  Even  the  heroine  has  long  seguences  with- 
out dialogue.  Recording  voice  and  picture  together  was  an 
expensive  operation  and  low-budget  productions  like 
Micheaux's  had  to  find  ways  to  get  away  with  less  dialogue 
and  more  music  and  effects.  The  Exile  (1931),  Micheaux's 
first  sound  picture  and  the  first  black-produced  sound  fea- 
ture, has  long  recorded  seguences  of  dancing  and  music 
at  a  party  in  a  mansion. 

Micheaux  cared  little  for  cinematic  conventions,  his  pri- 
mary goal  being  to  project  the  reality  of  the  black  experi- 
ence. But  with  his  low-budget  operation,  the  films  were 
often  crude:  the  technical  skills  of  the  white  journeymen 
he  hired  were  limited,  his  old-fashioned  eguipment  was 
immobile,  and  the  casting  of  amateurs  opposite  professional 
actors  sometimes  destroyed  a  good  story.  He  shot  on  a  near- 
ly one-to-one  ratio,  discarding  little.  As  one  of  his  actors 
said,  "if  you  made  a  mistake  or  missed  a  line,  he'd  leave  it 
in . . .  saying  maybe  the  audience  would  get  a  laugh. . . ." 
Although  Micheaux's  audience  was  often  angered  by  his 
subject  matter  and  critical  of  the  crudity  of  his  work,  he  was 
nevertheless  admired  by  blacks  for  his  pioneering  efforts. 
His  films  spoke  directly  to  the  black  audience,  whose  com- 
mon bond  with  the  subjects  heightened  the  credibility  of 
his  stories,  while  the  visual  sense  of  "place"  or  familiar  ter- 
rain strengthened  the  myths  he  created. 


Micheaux's  career,  which  started  with  such  flair,  began 
to  wane  in  the  1940s.  He  tried  unsuccessfully  to  compete 
with  the  Hollywood  genres,  offering  mysteries  and  gangster 
films  shot  in  a  studio.  These  films  lack  the  naturalistic  style 
of  his  earlier  work.  The  Notorious  Elinor  Lee  opened  in  Har- 
lem in  1940;  but  the  gold-engraved  invitations  and  flood- 
lights on  the  scene  did  not  improve  the  box  office  receipts. 
And  The  Betrayal  disappeared  after  a  brief  run  on  Broad- 
way in  1948.  Race  films  had  lost  their  appeal  and  the  last  of 
the  pioneers  of  early  black  films  died  in  North  Carolina  in 
1951,  after  a  career  that  spanned  more  than  thirty  years. 

Pearl  Bowser 
Guest  Curator 


Other  Films  by  Oscar  Micheaux 

All  films  are  black  and  white,  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

The  Homesteader,  1918.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

Symbol  of  the  Unconquered,  1920.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

Within  Our  Gates,  1920.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

77je  Brute,  1921.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

77ie  Gunsaulus  Mystery,  1921.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

The  Wages  of  Sin,  1921.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

77je  Dungeon,  1922.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

The  House  Behind  the  Cedars,  1923.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

Birthright,  1924.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost.  Sound  version,  1939;  lost. 

Son  of  Satan,  1924.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

The  Conjure  Woman,  1925.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

The  Spider's  Web,  1926.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

77}e  Girl  from  Chicago,  1927.  Silent,  7  reels. 

Thirty  Years  Later,  1928.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

A  Daughter  of  the  Congo,  1930.  Silent,  7  reels;  lost. 

Harlem  After  Midnight,  1935.  Lost. 

Lem  Hawkins  Confession ,  1935.  Lost. 

Temptation,  1936.  Lost. 

The  Millionaire,  1938.  Lost. 

The  Notorious  Elinor  Lee,  1940. 

The  Betrayal,  1948.  Lost. 

Marcus  Garland,  n.d.  Lost. 

The  Veiled  Aristocrats,  n.d.  Lost. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Bogle,  Donald.  Toms,  Coons,  Mulattoes,  Mammies,  &  Bucks:  An  Inter- 
pretive History  of  Blacks  in  American  Films.  New  York:  The  Viking 
Press,  1973. 

Cripps,  Thomas.  Black  Film  as  Genre.  Bloomingtorf,  Indiana:  Indiana 
University  Press,  1978. 

— .  Slow  Fade  to  Black:  The  Negro  in  American  Films,  1900-1942. 
New  York:  Oxford  University  Press,  1977. 

Leab,  Daniel  I.  From  Sambo  to  Superspade:  The  Black  Experience  in 
Motion  Pictures.  Boston:  Houghton  Mifflin,  1975. 

Sampson,  Henry  T.  Blacks  in  Black  and  White:  A  Source  Book  on  Black 
Films.  Metuchen,  N.J.:  Scarecrow  Press,  1977. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours: 

Tuesday  11:00-8:00 
Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-6:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  ©  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    18 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


New  Ameri 


T7":  J 


71  „L 


A  Hi 


:al  Survey,  1967-1980 


June  13- July  1,  1984 


Gallery  Talk  by  John  G.  Hanhardt 
Thursday,  June  21,  at  1:00. 


Program  1 

Videotape  Study  No.  3,  1967-69.  Jud  Yalkut  and  Nam  June  Paik. 

5  minutes. 
The  Medium  Is  the  Medium,  1969.  WGBH,  Boston.  30  minutes. 
TV  as  a  Creative  Medium,  1969.  Ira  Schneider.  13  minutes. 


Program  2 

Lip  Sync,  1969. 


Bruce  Nauman.  60  minutes. 


Program  3 

Vertical  Roll,  1972.  Joan  Jonas.  20  minutes. 
Undertone,  1972.  Vito  Acconci.  30  minutes. 

Program  4 

Inventory,  1972.  John  Baldessari.  30  minutes. 

Selected  Works,  Reel  4,  1972.  William  Wegman.  20  minutes. 

Three  Transitions,  1973.  Peter  Campus.  5  minutes. 

Program  5 

Television  Delivers  People,  1973.  Richard  Serra.  6  minutes. 
Global  Groove,  1973.  Nam  June  Paik.  30  minutes. 
Handling  (The  Austrian  Tapes),  1974.  Douglas  Davis.  5  minutes. 
Fourth  ol  July  in  Saugerties,  1972.  Ira  Schneider  and  Beryl  Korot. 
15  minutes. 

Program  6 

Scapemates,  1972.  Ed  Emshwiller.  29  minutes. 
Vocabulary ,  1973.  Woody  and  Steina  Vasulka.  5  minutes. 
Underscan ,  1974.  Nancy  Holt.  8  minutes. 
Female  Sensibility,  1974.  Lynda  Benglis.  14  minutes. 

Program  7 

Hark  Hork,  1973.  Frank  Gillette.  18  minutes. 
One-Eyed  Bum,  1974.  Andy  Mann.  6  minutes. 
Moving,  1974.  Juan  Downey.  30  minutes. 

Program  8 

Semiotics  ol  the  Kitchen,  1975.  Martha  Rosier.  7  minutes. 
Children's  Tapes:  A  Selection,  1974.  Terry  Fox.  30  minutes. 
Boomerang,  1974.  Richard  Serra.  10  minutes. 
Running  Outburst,  1975.  Charlemagne  Palestine.  8  minutes. 

Program  9 

Video  Ecotopia,  1975.  Stephen  Beck.  5  minutes. 
Media  Burn,  1975.  Ant  Farm.  25  minutes. 
Birth  of  an  Industry,  1977.  TVTV.  18  minutes. 

Program  10 

/  Want  to  Live  in  the  Country  (and  Other  Romances) ,  1976.  Joan  Jonas. 

30  minutes. 
A  Newsreel  of  Dreams ,  1976.  Stan  VanDerBeek.  24  minutes. 


Program  11 

Four  Sided  Tape,  1976.  Peter  Campus.  3  minutes. 

The  Space  between  the  Teeth,  1976.  Bill  Viola.  9  minutes. 

The  Morning  after  the  Night  of  Power,  1977.  Bill  Viola.  10  minutes. 

Vito  s  Reef,  1978.  Howard  Fried.  34  minutes. 

Program  12 

Laughing  Alligator,  1979.  Juan  Downey.  29  minutes. 
After  Montgolfier,  1979.  Davidson  Gigliotti.  10  minutes. 
El  Corandero ,  1979.  Shalom  Gorewitz.  6  minutes. 

Program  13 

Lake  Placid  W,  1980.  Nam  June  Paik.  4  minutes. 

Olympic  Fragments,  1980.  Kit  Fitzgerald  and  John  Sanborn. 

10  minutes. 
Chott  el-Djend  (A  Portrait  in  Light  and  Heat),  1979.  Bill  Viola. 

28  minutes. 

Program  14 

Wonder  Woman,  1979.  Dara  Birnbaum.  7  minutes. 
Sunstone,  1979.  Ed  Emshwiller.  3  minutes. 
Hearts,  1979.  Barbara  Buckner.  12  minutes. 
Artifacts,  1980.  Woody  Vasulka.  22  minutes. 


The  national  tour  of  New  American  Video  Art:  A  Historical  Survey, 
1967-1980  is  supported  by  the  National  Committee  of  the  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art. 


"New  American  Video  Art"  surveys  video  as  an  art  form 
from  its  beginnings  in  1967  to  1980.  These  first  years  in  the 
history  of  video  art  saw  a  wide  variety  of  approaches,  de- 
scribing and  defining  a  new  field  of  art-making.  But  behind 
the  diversity  of  these  initial  efforts  lie  three  features  com- 
mon to  video  art  in  this  period:  its  collaboration  with  the 
other  arts,  its  involvement  with  political  and  ideological 
debates,  and  its  intentional  distinction  from  commercial 
television. 

By  the  late  1960s  television  had  become  a  pervasive  mass 
medium  viewed  in  virtually  every  home.  On  home  televi- 
sion sets,  the  public  was  offered  a  homogeneous  selection 
of  programming  that  followed  formulas  for  structure,  run- 
ning time,  and  content.  The  viewer's  perception  of  the  me- 
dium was  largely  determined  by  the  role  television  had 
come  to  play  as  a  commercial  entertainment  and  informa- 
tion industry  whose  success  — and  therefore  profit  — was 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Still  from  Vertical  Roll,  1972,  by  Joan  Jonas. 

gauged  by  the  number  of  viewers  it  attracted.  In  an  attempt 
to  challenge  the  television  industry's  hegemony,  many  ac- 
tivists worked  —  of  ten  as  collectives  — to  use  video  as  a  tool 
for  social  change.  At  the  same  time,  video  artists  began 
producing  tapes  and  installations  designed  to  explore  the 
medium's  potential  for  a  new  aesthetic  discourse.  It  is  the 
work  of  this  latter  group  that  "New  American  Video  Art" 
seeks  to  elucidate. 

While  a  number  of  people  began  experimenting  with 
television  in  the  mid-1960s,  the  direct  appropriation  of  tele- 
vision began  with  the  manipulation  or  destruction  of  the 
television  set  itself  in  the  early  Fluxus  art  projects  of  the 
Korean-born  composer  and  musician  Nam  June  Paik  and 
of  the  German  artist  Wolf  Vostell.  Vostell's  and  Paik's  actions 
signaled  a  rethinking  of  the  television  set  as  a  cultural  icon 
and  as  a  technology  removed  from  the  control  of  the  indi- 
vidual. Their  first  exhibitions,  held  in  West  Germany  and 
the  United  States,  reflect  the  international  dimension  of 
video  art's  beginnings.  They  also  show  how  television  con- 
tributed to  the  changing  dynamic  of  the  arts  in  the  early 
1960s,  a  process  that  involved  the  re-examination  of  sacro- 
sanct visual  traditions.  One  manifestation  of  this  change 
was  the  focus  on  popular  culture  at  large,  formalized  in 
painting  and  sculpture  as  Pop  Art. 

Just  as  the  emergence  of  independent  filmmaking  in  the 
1940s  owed  much  to  the  development  of  the  small -gauge 
16mm  camera,  video  became  more  accessible  to  artists  and 
activists  in  1965,  when  the  Sony  Corporation  introduced  its 
portable  videotape  recorder  to  the  New  York  market.  Nam 
June  Paik  and  Les  Levine  were  the  first  artists  to  use  it.  In 
1965,  at  the  Cafe  a  Go-Go,  Paik  showed  his  first  videotape 
—  of  Pope  Paul  VI's  visit  to  New  York,  shot  with  a  portable 
video  camera  he  had  bought  that  day.  In  a  sense  Paik's  ac- 
tion symbolizes  the  initial  attraction  of  this  system:  it  was 
portable,  and  unlike  film,  which  had  to  be  processed,  one 
could  immediately  see  what  the  video  camera  was  record- 
ing. 

It  was  commonly  believed  that  the  new  video  equipment 
would  enable  the  visionary  producer  to  remove  the  pro- 


duction of  video  from  the  economic  and  ideological  con- 
straints of  the  television  industry.  Further,  in  keeping  with 
Marshall  McLuhan's  theories,  encapsulated  in  his  aphorism 
the  "medium  is  the  message,"  many  artists  envisioned  an 
electronic  age  where  individual  and  collective  producers 
would  participate  in  a  "global  village"  of  information  and 
images  that  superseded  national  and  cultural  boundaries. 
The  fourteen  programs  of  "New  American  Video  Art"  ex- 
amine, within  a  chronological  framework,  the  kinds  of  tech- 
nical, aesthetic,  and  philosophical  issues  that  appear  and 
reappear  throughout  the  period.  These  include:  image 
processing,  whereby  the  artist  develops  new  tools  and  a 
range  of  abstract  and  representational  forms  for  transform- 
ing both  prerecorded  and  electronically  generated  imag- 
ery through  colorizing  and  other  means;  personal  docu- 
mentaries, which  use  the  portable  hand-held  video  camera 
to  explore  the  dynamic  of  places  and  events ;  performance- 
based  videotapes,  which  employ  a  range  of  narrative  strat- 
egies to  re-examine  the  artist's  self,  the  psychology  of 
manipulation,  and  the  relationship  between  the  viewer  and 
the  artist/performer;  perceptual  studies ,  which  explore  the 
epistemology  of  perception  and  the  properties  of  the  video 
image  and  image-making  process;  and  narratives,  texts, 
and  actions  produced  to  criticize  or  counter  the  pervasive 
presence  of  commercial  television. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Av> 

Hours: 

1:00-8:00 

.turday  11:00  6:00 
Sun<i  I   00 

Film  and  video  informatu  n 


Copyright  c  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    19 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Doug  Hall 


October  30-December  2,  1984 


Machinery  for  the  Re-education  of  a 

Delinquent  Dictator ,  1983. 

Video  installation.  On  view  continuously 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  November  1,  at  2:00 
Doug  Hall  will  be  present 


Credits: 

Conceived  and  directed  by  Doug  Hall 

Photographed  by  Jules  Backus 

Machinery  tor  the  Re-education  of  a  Delinquent  Dictator  was  first 
exhibited  in  Rochester,  New  York,  at  the  Visual  Studies  Workshop  in 
November  1983.  The  version  I  am  showing  at  the  Whitney  Museum 
has  been  changed  sculpturally  in  order  to  take  advantage  of  the  new 
setting.  Like  most  of  my  installation  work,  this  piece  is  designed  for 
a  specific  location,  in  this  case,  the  Film  and  Video  Gallery  of  the 
Whitney  Museum. 

Doug  Hall,  a  San  Francisco-based  artist,  has  long  been 
active  in  performance  and  video  art.  Machinery  for  the 
Re-education  of  a  Delinquent  Dictator  (1983)  is  a  vivid 
commentary  on  the  signs  of  power  as  they  are  articulated 
through  language  and  image.  In  this  piece,  the  Film  and 
Video  Gallery,  painted  bright  red,  is  transformed  into  an 
environment  suggestive  of  authoritarian  power.  Four  mon- 
itors are  situated  around  a  stepped  glossy-black  platform 
over  which  a  large  red  flag  hangs.  Behind  the  platform  is 
an  enormous  industrial  fan  that  is  activated  as  the  spectator 
enters  the  gallery.  The  fact  that  nothing  occurs  until  some- 
one enters  the  space  is  central  to  the  meaning  of  the  work: 
just  as  power  is  bestowed  upon  a  ruler  by  those  ruled,  there 
can  be  no  spectacle  without  an  observer. 

The  action  of  the  fan  on  the  flag  alternates  with  the  dis- 
play of  two  videotapes.  In  one  tape,  the  artist  appears  as  a 
demagogue,  with  a  reddened  complexion  and  wearing 
dark  glasses.  Seen  both  in  close-up  and  at  a  distance,  this 
figure  makes  a  series  of  pronouncements.  But  his  speech  is 
slowed  down  and  processed  through  an  electronic  harmo- 
nizer  so  that  the  phrases  are  barely  comprehensible.  His 
words  are  merely  a  hypnotic  vocal  sound.  Intercut  with  the 
images  of  the  speaker  are  shots  of  the  red  flag  moving  in 
slow  motion.  In  the  other  videotape,  the  flag  is  intercut  with 
the  following  words:  tyranny,  condemned,  the  forbidden, 

FEAR. 

The  movement  of  the  air  in  the  gallery,  the  artist's  ges- 
tures, and  the  phrases  amplified  through  the  speakers  con- 
vey a  sense  of  political  power  — not  through  the  explicit 
meaning  of  words  or  images,  but  through  the  connotations 
such  conventions  evoke  in  the  spectator.  It  is  style,  not 
content,  form  rather  than  substance,  that  are  employed  as 
persuasive  devices. 


Drawing  for  Machinery  lor  the  Re-education  of  a  Delinquent  Dictator,  1983. 
Ink  on  paper,  20'/2  x26  inches.  Collection  of  the  artist.  Photograph  by  Geof- 
frey Clements. 

In  the  videotapes,  the  speaker  is  seen  from  specific  points 
of  view:  in  close-up,  from  a  low  angle,  and  with  a  clenched 
fist  smashing  down  on  a  table  top.  Each  image  projects  an 
authoritarian  presence.  This  theme  is  reiterated  in  the  red 
color  of  the  walls  as  well  as  in  the  monumentality  of  the 
pedestals  on  which  the  monitors  rest.  The  installation  is  an 
intertextual  investigation  combining  sound,  videotapes 
with  words  and  images,  and  the  deployment  of  structures 
in  space  to  reveal  the  seductive  and  frightening  subtext  of 
political  demagoguery  and  persuasion. 

Doug  Hall's  Machinery  for  the  He-education  of  a  Delin- 
quent Dictator  parallels  the  concerns  of  many  contempo- 
rary artists  whose  work  critigues  the  mass  media  as  it  por- 
trays domestic  and  international  politics.  The  scope  of  this 
art  ranges  from  the  images  of  repressive  violence  vividly 
interpreted  in  Leon  Golub's  paintings,  to  Jenny  Holzer's 
texts,  which  explore  the  hidden  meanings  within  political 
slogans,  to  Barbara  Kruger's  photo-montages,  which  ex- 
pose the  ideological  message  within  advertising  and  polit- 
ical rhetoric.  Doug  Hall's  videotapes  and  installations 
share  with  these  artists'  work  a  treatment  of  mass  media  as 
a  form  of  spectacle  in  society,  as  a  discourse  on  the  desire 
for  power  and  social  control. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  by  a  grant  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Machinery  for  the  Re-education  of  a 
Delinquent  Dictator 

In  viewing  this  work,  the  spectator  will  see  clearly  that  the 
piece  plays  with  highly  charged  images  which  have  obvi- 
ous political  overtones.  The  work  is  a  machine,  a  lair,  the 
soul  of  the  tyrant.  It  is  menacing  and  aggressive  but  not 
without  a  touch  of  the  comical.  The  wind  is  theater,  fabri- 
cated in  the  service  of  the  spectacle  and  illusion.  The  tyrant 
himself,  roaring  from  the  safety  of  the  television  monitor,  is 
an  illusion,  a  fabricated  image  with  no  decipherable  con- 
tent to  his  harangue,  his  voice  having  been  slowed  and 
electronically  distorted  beyond  recognition.  He  calls  out 
like  a  distant  voice  in  a  dream,  at  once  there  and  not  there 
at  all. 

Of  course,  the  huge  red  flag  is  central  to  this  piece.  It 
drapes  itself  over  the  black  stepped  platform  like  an  im- 
mense red  skirt.  It  is  when  one  enters  the  gallery  that  a 
switch  triggers  the  wind  machine  and  activates  the  flag, 
which  stretches  out,  billowing  and  snapping  with  the  force 
of  a  bull  whip.  For  a  minute  and  a  half  the  flag  dominates 
everything  in  the  room.  The  wind  is  overpowering;  the  roar 
of  the  machine  unrelenting  until  the  fan  stops,  the  flag  be- 
comes still,  and  the  voice  of  the  tyrant  once  again  domi- 
nates the  room. 

Like  other  work  that  I  have  done  over  the  past  several 
years,  this  piece  deals  with  the  symbols  of  power  and  how 
we  orient  ourselves  to  them.  It  is  an  investigation  of  what  I 
call  the  "theory  of  the  spectacle."  This  idea  carries  with  it 
the  following  suggestions:  first,  it  presupposes  that  culture 
has  a  pervasive  power  and  that  this  power  is  the  sum  of  the 
attitudes  of  the  people  manifested  through  their  common 
will  via  the  institutions  that  culture  (the  people)  has  created 
to  express  this  will.  Second,  the  idea  of  the  spectacle  sug- 
gests that  a  society  must  affirm  and  reaffirm  its  values 
through  all  the  means  available  to  it  (through  architecture, 
pomp  and  ceremony,  athletics,  the  mass  media,  the  visual 
arts,  etc.).  The  flag  is  the  chauvinist's  talisman  and  is  part 
of  this  theater  of  images.  We  are  all  forced,  one  way  or  an- 
other, to  take  a  position  in  relation  to  these  symbols  since 
they  form  a  significant  part  of  the  vocabulary  which  informs 
us  about  ourselves  and  the  world  we  live  in.  It  is,  by  the  way, 
the  spectator  entering  the  domain  of  the  tyrant  which  initi- 
ates the  spectacle  of  the  flag. 

Doug  Hall 


Biography 

Doug  Hall  was  born  in  San  Francisco  in  1944  and  studied  anthropology 
at  Harvard  University,  where  he  received  his  B.A.  in  1966.  He  then  at- 
tended the  Rinehart  School  of  Sculpture  of  the  Maryland  Institute,  Col- 
lege of  Art,  Baltimore,  and  received  his  M.F.  A.  in  1969.  Hall  began  work- 
ing in  video  in  1973,  creating  single-channel  tapes,  installations,  and 
performances.  Throughout  the  mid-1970s  he  worked  with  T.  R.  Uthco,  an 
artists'  group  he  founded  with  Jody  Procter  and  Diane  Andrews  Hall,  as 
well  as  with  Ant  Farm  (Chip  Lord,  Doug  Michaels,  and  Curtis  Schreier). 
Hall  has  received  grants  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  (1979), 
among  others,  and  won  the  lames  D.  Phelan  Award  in  Video  Art  in  1983. 
He  has  taught  at  Virginia  Commonwealth  University,  Richmond,  and 
currently  teaches  at  the  San  Francisco  Art  Institute.  Hall  lives  and  works 
in  San  Francisco. 


Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Contemporary  Arts  Museum,  Houston,  1975;  Anthology  Film  Archives, 
New  York,  1975;  Long  Beach  Museum  of  Art,  California,  1976;  University 
Art  Museum,  University  of  California,  Berkeley,  1979;  Long  Beach  Mu- 
seum of  Art,  California,  1980;  Anthology  Film  Archives,  New  York,  1981; 
Los  Angeles  Institute  of  Contemporary  Art,  1981;  Visual  Studies  Work- 
shop, Rochester,  New  York,  1983;  Institute  of  Contemporary  Art,  Boston, 
1983;  University  Art  Museum,  University  of  California,  Berkeley,  1984. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Kassel,  West  Germany,  "Documenta  6,"  1977;  Whitney  Museum  of  Amer- 
ican Art,  New  York,  "Two-Channel  Video,"  1978;  San  Francisco  Museum 
of  Modern  Art,  "Space/Time/Sound  — 1970's:  A  Decade  in  the  Bay  Area," 
1979;  The  San  Francisco  Art  Institute  Annual,  1980;  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art,  New  York,  "1983  Biennial  Exhibition";  Kunsthaus  Zurich, 
"New  American  Video,"  1983;  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art,  Chicago, 
"Awards  in  the  Visual  Arts  2,"  1983  (and  traveling  exhibition);  Montbeh- 
ard,  France,  "2nd  International  Video  Festival,"  1984;  The  Museum  of 
Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Video:  Recent  Acquisitions,"  1984;  San  Sebas- 
tian, Spain,  "San  Sebastian  Film  and  Video  Festival,"  1984. 

Videotapes 

All  videotapes  are  3A  inch,  with  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 
I  Like  My  Television,  1972.  Vi  inch,  black  and  white;  3  minutes. 
77?e  Real  Lone  Ranger,  1972.  With  Willie  Walker,  '/j  inch,  black  and 

white;  4'/2  minutes. 
I  Like  Supermarkets,  1974.  Vi  inch,  black  and  white;  16  minutes. 
The  Eternal  Frame,  1975.  T  R.  Uthco  with  Ant  Farm.  Vi  inch,  black 

and  white  and  color;  23  minutes. 
Really,  I've  Never  Done  Anything  Like  That  Before,  He  Said,  1975. 

T.  R.  Uthco.  Two  channels,  '/2  inch,  black  and  white;  15  minutes. 
Game  of  the  Week,  1977.  Color;  17  minutes. 
I  Hardly  Ever  Leave  This  Room,  1979.  With  Diane  Andrews  Hall. 

Three  channels,  color;  15  minutes. 
The  Amanllo  News  Tapes,  1980.  With  Jody  Procter  and  Chip  Lord. 

Color;  25  minutes. 
The  Speech,  1982.  Color;  4'/2  minutes. 
This  Is  the  Truth,  1982.  Color;  5  minutes. 
Songs  of  the  80s,  1983.  Color;  17  minutes. 
Almost  Like  a  Dance,  1984.  Color;  5  minutes. 

Installations 

The  Eternal  Frame,  1976.  T.  R.  Uthco  with  Ant  Farm.  Single  channel, 

black  and  white  and  color,  sound;  21  minutes. 
The  Amanllo  News  Tapes,  1980,  1981.  With  Jody  Procter  and  Chip 

Lord.  Single  channel,  color,  sound;  27  minutes. 
The  Tyrant's  Last  Dream,  1983.  Single  channel,  color,  sound;  41. 2  minutes. 
77je  Victims'  Regret,  1984.  Four  channels,  color,  sound;  7  minutes. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Hall,  Doug.  "Ronald  Reagan:  The  Politics  of  Image."  Video  80,  4  (Spring 
1982),  pp.  28-30. 

McGee,  Micki.  "Artists  Making  the  News,  Artists  Re-making  the  News." 
Afterimage,  10  (November  1982),  pp.  6-9. 

Video  Installation  1983  (exhibition  catalogue).  Visual  Studies  Workshop, 
Rochester,  New  York.  A  special  supplement  to  Afterimage,  11  (Decem- 
ber 1983). 

Video/TV:  Humor/Comedy,  A  Touring  Video  Exhibition  of  Media  Study/ 
Buffalo  (exhibition  catalogue).  Buffalo:  Media  Study/Buffalo,  1983. 

Doug  Hall's  videotapes  are  distributed  by  Electronic  Arts  Intermix, 
New  York,  and  Environmental  Communications,  Venice,  California. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


' 


Copyright  ©  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  20 
The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Re-Viewing  Television 


December  14-30,  1984 


Re-Viewing  Television .  In  terpretations  of  the 

Mass  Media 

Part  I:  Video  Artists  Look  at  TV 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  December  20,  after  the 
1 :  30  screening.  David  Shulman  and  Jack 
Walworth  will  be  present 


Schedule 

TUESDAY 

Program  1     1  15 

Birth  of  an  Industry.  1977  TVTV  18  minutes. 

Television  Delivers  People.  1973.  Richard  Serra.  6mrnutes. 

The  Selling  of  New  York.  1972.  Nam  June  Peak  8  minutes. 

MediaBurn.  1975  Ant  Farm.  25  minutes 

Programs    2: 30  and  6:00 

In  depen  den  ts  Tom  te,  1 984 .  Jack  Walworth  with  Whit  Johnston . 

47  minutes. 

Face  Fear  and  Fascination.  1984.  Tony  Cokes.  32  minutes. 

Program  3    4  00 

Race  against  Prime  Time.  1984.  David  Shulman.  59  minutes. 
AboufMedia,  1977.  Tony  Ramos  28  minutes. 


WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY 
Program  1     12  15 
Program  2       130 
Program  3      3  00 


SUNDAY 

Program  1  1  15 

Program  2  2  30 

Program  3  4  00 


This  three-part  exhibition  features  artists'  videotapes  that 
scrutinize  the  social  and  cultural  institutions  which  com- 
prise the  mass  media  Part  1  includes  tapes  that  critically 
examine  the  establishment  of  the  television  industry  and 
the  practices  that  determine  the  form  and  content  of  its 
programming  Highlighting  the  show  are  recent  tapes  by 
David  Shulman,  Jack  Walworth,  and  Tony  Cokes  Earlier 
examples  of  how  artists  have  dealt  with  the  subject  are 
also  included  to  provide  a  historical  background  to  these 
efforts 

Program  1  opens  with  Birth  of  an  Industry  (1977),  by 
TVTV,  an  artists'  collective  It  is  a  satirical  narrative  which 
skillfully  describes  the  early  consolidation  of  power  by  the 
commeraal  networks  through  the  control  of  patents  Tele- 
vision Delivers  People  (1973),  by  the  noted  sculptor  Rich- 
ard Serra,  displays  a  rolling  text  of  statements  that  explain 
the  function  of  television  in  'delivering'  audience-con- 
sumers to  advertisers  This  commentary  is  juxtaposed  with 
a  Muzak  sound  track  that  ironically  comments  on  televi- 
sion's promotion  of  popular  entertainment  and  its  un- 
willingness to  engage  in  self-criticism.  Nam  June  Paik's 
The  Selling  of  New  York  (1972)  is  a  witty  comment  on  how 
the  global  dominance  of  the  American  media — based  in 
New  York  City — produces  an  information  monopoly  Ant 
Farm,  the  former  architecture  and  performance  collec- 
tive from  San  Franasco,  created  in  Media  Burn  ( 1975)  an 
event  featuring  a  car  specially  modified  with  video 


equipment  which  drove  through  a  wall  of  televisions.  In 
creating  this  extraordinary  media  spectacle,  which  was 
covered  by  local  TV  news  programs,  Ant  Farm  pointed  out 
how  the  news  media  create  events  merely  by  covering 
them 

Program  2  features  recent  works  by  Jack  Walworth  and 
Tony  Cokes  Walworth  and  Whit  Johnston's  Independents 
Tonite  (1984)  fashions  a  narrative  out  of  the  problematic 
position  of  independent  producers  who  propose  various 
strategies — both  radical  and  traditional — to  change  tel- 
evision In  Face  Fear  and  Fascination  (1984),  Cokes  ana- 
lyzes the  representation  of  women  m  daytime  soap 
operas  and  commercial  advertising  by  combining  off-air 
material  with  various  texts  dealing  with  the  subject 

Program  3  offers  two  documentary  interpretations  of 
television  news  reporting  David  Shulman's  Race  against 
Prime  Time  (1984)  examines  television  coverage  of  the 
1980  race  riots  in  Miami.  Shulman  reviews  both  local  and 
network  reporting  and  the  factors  involved  in  shaping  the 
media's  response  to  the  causes  and  the  representation  of 
social  unrest  Tony  Ramos'  About  Media  (1977)  treats  local 
New  York  television  coverage  of  Ramos'  protests  against 
the  Vietnam  War  The  production  critically  contrasts 
Ramos'  interview  with  TV  reporters  at  his  home  with  the 
subsequent  report  on  television. 

'Re- Viewing  Television'  is  the  first  of  a  three-part  series; 
it  will  be  followed  by  'Paper  Tiger  Television'  (January  15- 
February  17,  1985),  and  a  history  of  artists'  alternative  tele- 
vision, scheduled  for  1985 

JohnG  Hanhardt 

Curator,  Film  and  Video 

Face  Fear  an d  Fascination 

I  am  studying  mass  culture  in  terms  of  methodology  and 
ideology  because  I  see  concrete  relations  between  the 
media  and  economic/political  power.  Television  does  not 
innocently  disseminate  information  and  entertainment  It 
is  a  conscious  or  unconscious  means  of  molding  beliefs  and 
perceptions.  It  is  not  neutral  It  is  not  passive  It  is  not  nat- 
ural. The  meanings  produced  through  the  media  have 
points  of  origin,  points  of  view,  and  points  of  perception.  A 
culture  describes  itself  by  repeating,  by  re-presenting  its 
dominant  values.  I  cannot  avoid  a  relationship  with  the 
cultural  spectacle,  but  I  can  ask  questions:  How  and  why 
does  the  spectacle  limit  what  we  'see'?  What  social  voices, 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  ana  with  a 
grant  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


desires,  and  concrete  alternatives  does  the  dominant  cul- 
ture exclude  and/or  repress?  What  are  our  roles  both  as 
producers  and  consumers  of  the  spectacle?  And  how  are 
we  implicated  in  the  ongoing  process  by  which  the  spec- 
tacle is  maintained? 

Face  Fear  and  Fascination  examines  daytime  television 
in  terms  of  its  portrayal  and  construction  of  women  and  its 
commodity  advertising  strategies.  Women  are  depicted 
as  objects  to  be  looked  at  in  repetitive  and  fragmented 
melodramas  based  on  family  conflicts,  romantic  love, 
and  violence  The  commercials  sell  the  delimited  powers 
of  beauty,  conformity,  and  the  commodity.  The  spectacle 
constructs  an  audience  in  an  economy  of  unfulfilled  de- 
sires The  tape  calls  attention  to  the  assumptions,  ideas, 
and  methods  of  'harmless  entertainment'  offered  by  the 
patriarchy  and  corporate  capitalism  In  addition  to  ma- 
terial scavenged  from  broadcast  television,  I  have  used 
texts  from  such  various  sources  as  intensities  and  voice- 
overs  to  question  the  conditions  of  reading  and  possibility 
generated  by  conventional  television 

Tony  Cokes 


Face  Fear  and  Fascination,  1984  Tony  Cokes 

Race  against  Prime  Time 

In  many  ways,  this  documentary  grew  out  of  my  experi- 
ences doing  media  support  work  for  a  Brooklyn-based 
community  group,  the  Black  United  Front  The  BUF  was 
formed  in  1978  in  response  to  a  wave  of  cutbacks  in  city 
services,  hospital  closings,  and  the  choking  death  of  a 
community  resident,  Arthur  Miller,  by  New  York  City  po- 
lice. Over  the  two-year  period  in  which  I  helped  to  pro- 
vide access  to  video  equipment,  set  up  community  film 
screenings,  and  videotape  some  of  the  marches  and 
rallies,  meetings,  and  protests  which  the  BUF  initiated,  I 
usually  watched  and  sometimes  recorded  the  TV  news 
coverage  of  these  same  events  What  I  saw  on  TV  often  left 
me  startled  and  intrigued— were  these  TV  news  cameras 
really  at  the  same  event? 

I  became  much  more  curious  about  the  process  behind 
news  coverage  To  what  degree  were  the  personal  values 
of  the  individual  reporter,  or  the  political  orientation  of  the 
station,  or  the  organizational  and  economic  structures  of 
the  news-gathering  process  responsible  for  the  patterns  of 


i?ace  against  Prime  Time.  1984  David  Shulman 

distortion?  To  what  extent  was  the  medium  itself  to  blame? 
The  double  standards,  misrepresentation  of  grass-roots 
leadership,  and  the  tendency  to  gloss  over  or  ignore  the 
real  issues  and  grievances  had  an  extremely  negative 
and  polarizing  impact  on  race  relations  m  New  York  City 
To  say  that  television  news  was  racist  and  leave  it  at  that 
wasn't  very  satisfying 

Throughout  the  process  of  making  Race  against  Prime 
Time — getting  access  to  TV  stations,  setting  up  interviews 
with  media  people  as  well  as  community  residents — there 
was  an  accompanying  thrill  of  discovering  for  oneself 
things  that  were  otherwise  hidden  from  view  This  thrill  of 
discovery  has  always  helped  to  sustain  the  work  I  do 

David  Shulman 

In  depen  den  ts  Toni  te 

The  purpose  of  making  Independents  Tonite  was  to  delin- 
eate and  comment  on  the  contradictions  inherent  in  in- 
dependent production  Specifically,  I  wanted  to  expose 
the  limitations  and  constrictions  independents  are  subject- 
ed to  in  the  pursuit  of  an  audience  Moreover,  the  tape  ex- 
plores the  possible  avenues  independents  can  take  to  work 
around  and  in  some  cases  actually  change  the  broad- 
cast television  system  In  the  characters'  attempts  to  effect 
such  change,  political  as  well  as  professional  issues  are 
traversed  in  a  serio-comic  tone  This  serves  to  highlight  the 
issues  in  both  a  theoretical  and  practical  context 

With  freelance  work  and  my  small  "independent'  com- 
pany as  my  experience,  I  conceived  this  project  to  con- 
front my  frustrations  as  a  TV  viewer  Collaborating  with  my 
fellow  independents,  we  have  used  the  narrative  and 
comedic  styles  to  obtain  an  audience,  while  breaking  key 
codes  and  revealing  inherent  ideologies  The  question 
does,  however,  remain:  How  can  we  change  television? 

Jack  Walworth 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue,  New  York,  New  York.  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  c  1984  by  the  Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    2 1 
The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Re-Viewing  Television 


January  15-February  17,  1985 


Live  Productions 

Tuesday,  January  29,  at  6:30 

Flo  Kennedy  on  press  coverage  of  South  Africa 
Tuesday,  February  5,  at  6:30 

Herbert  Schiller  on  The  New  York  Times  and  the 

World  Crisis" 
Saturday,  February  9,  at  2:00 

"Youth  and  the  Media" 


Re-Viewing  Television:  In  terpretations  of  the 

Mass  Media 

Part  II:  Paper  Tiger  Television 

Video  installation.  On  view  continuously 

Past  and  present  members  of  Paper  Tiger  Television  include;  Diana 
Agosta,  Fusun  Ateser,  Pennee  Bender,  Skip  Blumberg.  Bill  Boddy, 
Daniel  Brooks,  Nancy  Cain,  Shu  Lea  Cheang,  Dena  Crane,  Linda 
Crcmor,  Manuel  De  Landa,  Michael  D'Elia.  Judite  Dos  Santos,  Karen 
Einstein,  Preacher  Ewing,  Mary  Feaster,  Bob  Fiore,  Bart  Friedman, 
Vicki  Gholson.  Dee  Dee  Halleck.  Ezra  Halleck,  Larry  Hymowitz,  Joan 
Jubela,  Pat  Keeton.  Hilery  Kipnis,  Molly  Kovel,  Melissa  Leo,  Marty 
Lucas,  Esti  Marpet,  Leanne  Mella,  Alison  Morse,  Diane  Neumaier. 
DanOchiva,  MikePenland,  Roger  Politzer,  CarynRogoff,  Kurt 
Ruebenson,  David  Shulman.  Janet  Stein.  Alan  Stemheimer,  Parry 
Teasdale,  Valerie  Van  Isler,  Martha  Wallner,  and  Roy  Wilson 

During  the  1960s  and  early  1970s  independent  video-  and 
filmmakers,  working  outside  the  mainstream  of  commer- 
cial film  and  television,  participated  in  the  critical  reex- 
amination of  American  domestic  and  foreign  policy.  Their 
activism  took  the  form  of  a  radically  reinvigorated  docu- 
mentary and  avant-garde  cinema,  and  an  alternative 
approach  to  video  that  challenged  traditional  modes  of 
media  production,  distribution,  and  exhibition  Media  col- 
lectives such  as  Newsreel  formulated  agitprop  cinema  for 
communities  and  meeting  halls,  and  'guerrilla  television' 
groups  created  television  programming  and  production 
networks  through  cable  outlets. 

But  the  potential  of  cable  to  become  a  genuine  com- 
munications tool  linking  and  addressing  community  con- 
cerns has  now  largely  been  eclipsed.  Recent  federal  com- 
munications policies  have  resulted  in  further  cutbacks  in 
access  for  individuals  and  communities  with  alternative 
viewpoints.  Despite  this  reduction,  a  few  tenacious  groups 
have  managed  to  produce  and  broadcast  regular  pro- 
gramming for  the  public  access  airwaves 

One  of  these  is  Paper  Tiger  Television,  a  cable  series  pro- 
duced by  a  collective  of  media  artists  concerned  with  ex- 
posing the  economic  and  ideological  factors  that  shape 
the  industries  controlling  the  content  and  distribution  of 
mass  media — of  film,  television,  newspapers,  books,  and 
magazines.  For  this  exhibition,  Paper  Tiger  has  re-creat- 
ed and  expanded  some  of  the  studio  sets  in  which  their 
lively  programs  have  been  produced  In  addition,  they 
have  designed  a  mock-up  of  a  newsstand  on  which  are 
displayed  various  publications.  Some  of  these  have  been 
altered  to  interpret  their  editorial  policies  and  content; 
others  are  alternative  periodicals.  Inside  the  newsstand 
is  a  TV  monitor  on  which  one  can  watch  a  chronolog- 
ical history  of  the  series'  programs 

This  information  environment  also  features  an  actual 
teletype  that  provides  international  news  from  different 

□1  Endowment  for  the  Arts 


wire  services,  a  continuously  running  television  in  the 
'studio'  displaying  public  access  programs,  and  corpo- 
rate annual  reports  from  the  major  media  industries.  This 
combination  of  installation  pieces  establishes  an  arena 
for  critical  interpretation  of  the  largely  invisible  corpo- 
rate world  that  controls  the  communications  industry  in 
the  United  States. 

The  Paper  Tiger  group  is  exploring  new  ways  to  com- 
prehend and  analyze  a  communications  industry  which 
is  becoming  increasingly  removed  from  public  review. 
Theirs  is  an  activist  and  innovative  art  that  attempts  to 
identify  the  forces  shaping  public  reception  and  re- 
sponse to  global  events 

JohnG.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Production  still  from  Joan  Braderman  ReadsThe  National  Enquirer,  1983 


Paper  Tiger  Television 

Most  cable  systems  in  the  United  States  have  a  few  channels 
that  must  be  made  available  free  to  community  members 
They  are  called  "public  access'  channels,  and  they  are  the 
bane  of  cable  corporations  Company  executives  would 
rather  program  a  more  profitable  twenty-four-hour,  adver- 
tiser-based weather  channel  or  yet  another  subscription 
movie  channel.  But  it  is  the  law,  in  the  form  of  franchise 
agreements  made  with  local  municipalities,  that  requires 
public  access  channel  space  m  exchange  for  the  cable 
company's  use  of  the  city's  streets  and  sewers 

Paper  Tiger  Television  is  a  weekly  program  that  appears 
on  the  public  channels  of  Manhattan  Cable  It  is  one  of  near- 
ly two  hundred  weekly  senes  that  are  transmitted  regularly 
to  cable  subscribers  in  New  York  City  Paper  Tiger  began  in 
1981  as  a  special  series  on  Communications  Update,  a  week- 
ly program  initiated  by  Liza  Bear  in  1979  Since  then,  more 
than  sixty-seven  programs  have  been  aired,  not  only  in  New 
York,  but  on  cable  channels  m  Minneapolis,  Austin,  San 
Diego,  Somerville,  Massachusetts,  and  in  other  cities  na- 
tionwide 

Each  week  Paper  Tiger  features  a  guest  commentator 
who  provides  a  critical  reading  of  a  magazine  or  news- 
paper The  programs  include  basic  information  on  the  econ- 
omic structure  of  the  corporation  that  produced  the  publica- 
tion Many  programs  also  look  at  demographics:  who  the 
audience  for  a  particular  publication  is,  and  what  products 
they  consume — eg  ,  U.S.  News  and  World  Report  readers 
buy  wine  by  the  case — and  how  much  a  full-page  color  ad 
costs.  Sometimes  we  examine  the  board  of  directors  or  the 
background  of  the  editors  and  reporters  While  the  specific 
focus  each  week  is  on  one  publication,  it  is  the  intention  of  the 
senes  to  provide  a  cumulative  view  of  the  culture  industry  as 
a  whole 

There  are  certain  practical  requirements  for  access  pro- 
gramming. First,  a  show  must  be  shown  regularly  Since 
there  is  little  hope  of  access  programs  being  included  m  TV 
Guide's  schedule,  or  being  listed  in  newspapers  of  record, 
the  main  way  to  build  an  audience  is  to  schedule  the  show 
every  week  at  the  same  time,  people  are  home  on  certain 
nights  and  switch  on  the  tube  at  certain  times  If  they  turn  the 
dial  around  during  the  breaks  between  the  shows,  they 
might  linger  on  something  that  looks  different  from  regular 
TV  fare 

Another  strategy  is  to  have  an  immediately  discernible 
'different'  look,  without  being  intimidating  or  alienating 
Paper  Tiger  uses  bnghtly  painted  sets  The  guest  sits  on  a 
yellow  kitchen  chair:  no  pompous  'director'  chairs,  no  stuffed 
couch,  no  glittery  curtains  The  set  looks  homey,  but  very  col- 
orful, tike  the  funny  papers  on  Sunday  The  guests  are  pro- 
jected into  the  foreground  with  pizzazz  The  bright  sets  help 
to  leaven  the  heaviness  of  the  subject  matter  Sometimes  we 
use  actors  to  provide  simultaneous  'non-verbal'  translations 
of  some  of  the  text,  often  we  use  graphics  and  charts— not 
elaborate  video  effects,  but  hand-lettered,  or  cut  and 
pasted  The  graphics  are  not  fed  into  a  mechanical  graph- 
ics holder,  but  are  held  in  place  so  that  fingers  show  If  there 
is  a  specific  look  to  the  senes,  it  is  handmade,  a  comfort- 
able, non-technocratic  look  that  says  friendly— and  low 
budget 

The  seams  show:  we  often  intercut  overview,  wide-angle 
shots  that  give  the  viewer  a  sense  of  the  people  who  are  mak- 
ing the  show  and  the  types  of  equipment  we  use  At  the  end 


of  the  program,  along  with  the  credits,  we  usually  display  the 
budget,  which  includes  everything  from  magic  markers  to 
studio  rental  The  total  cost  for  one  show  can  vary  from  nine- 
teen dollars,  using  a  black-and-white  camera,  to  one  hun- 
dred fifty  dollars  for  a  two-camera  color  setup  that  includes 
a  switcher,  an  audio  mixer,  and  two  video  recording  decks 
By  showing  the  seams  and  price  tags,  we  hope  to  demystify 
the  process  of  live  television,  and  to  prove  that  making  pro- 
grams isn't  all  that  prohibitively  expensive 

Although  most  people  are  cynical  about  the  media  and 
consider  themselves  aware  of  being  manipulated,  most  are 
unaware  of  just  how  this  manipulation  works  issue  by  issue, 
ad  by  ad  Many  people  still  think  of  "the  media'  as  a  form  of 
'journalism,'  distinct  from  other  areas  of  economic  life  By 
analyzing  a  publication  in  detail,  by  examining  its  cor- 
porate interconnections,  and  by  pointing  out  exactly  how 
and  why  certain  information  appears,  a  good  critical  read- 
ing can  invert  the  media  so  that  they  work  against  them- 
selves After  seeing  a  publication  discussed  on  Paper  Tiger 
Television,  a  viewer  sees  each  ad,  each  article,  in  a  new  cnti- 
calway 

Dee  Dee  Halleck 

Adapted  from  the  forthcoming  book  Cultures  in  Contention,  edited 
by  Doug  Kahn  and  Diane  Neumaier,  Seattle:  Real  Comet  Press. 


Bibliography 

Community  Television  Review.  Periodical  published  by  the  National 
Federation  of  Local  Cable  Programmers  Washington,  D  C 

Demac,  Donna  Keeping  America  Uninformed  Government  Secrecy 
m  the  1980s.  Princeton,  N  J  :  Pilgrim  Press,  1984 

Dorfman  Ariel,  and  Armand  Mattelart  How  to  Read  Donald  Duck 
New  York:  International  General,  1975 

Gever,  Martha  "Meet  the  Press:  On  Paper  Tiger  Television, '  After- 
image,  vol  11  (November  1983),  pp  7-11 

Kwirney.  Jonathan  Endless  Enemies-  New  York  Congdonand  Weed. 
1984 

MacBnde,  Sean,  et  al  ManyVoices.  One  World.  (The  MacBnde  Re- 
port )  Pans:  UNESCO:  London:  KoganPage;  New  York:  Unipub,  1980 

Mosco,  Vincent  Push  Button  Fantasies  Norwood,  N  J   Ablex  Publish 
ing,  1982. 

.  and  Janet  Wasko  Labor,  the  Working  Class,  and  the  Media 

Norwood,  N  J  .  Ablex  Publishing,  1982 

Roman,  James  Cable  Mania  A  Cable  Television  Source  Book  Engle- 
wood Cliffs,  N.J  :  Prentice-Hall.  1983 

Schiller,  Herbert.  The  Mind  Managers.  Boston.  Beacon  Press,  1973 

Information  and  the  Crisis  Economy  Norwood,  N  J  .  Ablex  Pub 

lishing,  1984. 

Smith,  Anthony  The  Geopolitics  of  Information  New  York.  Oxford  Uni- 
versity Press,  1980 

Stearns,  Jennifer  A  Short  Course  in  Cable  New  York.  United  Church  of 
Christ  Office  of  Communications,  1981 

Wasko,  Janet  Movies  and  Money  Financing  the  American  Film  In- 
dustry. Norwood.  N.J  :  Ablex  Publishing.  1982. 


Whitney  Museum  or  American  Art 


Hours 


Film  and  video  Information 


! 


Copyright  ©  1985  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   22 
*     The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Meredith  Monk 


February  23-March  3,  1985 


Schedule:  TUesclay  at  1:15,  3:45;  6:30,  films 
only.  Wednesday-Saturday  at  1 1 : 1 5  and  2 :  00 . 
Sunday  at  12:30  and  3:00 

Films:  Excerpt  from  16  Millimeter  Earrings,  1966, 
Children,  1966;  Ballbearing,  1968;  Mountain,  1971, 
Quarry,  1975;  Ellis  Island,  1981. 
Videotapes:  Paris,  1982;  Turtle  Dreams  (Waltz),  1983 


Translating  the  art  of  dance  into  a  moving  image  has 
always  been  a  challenging  proposition  A  static  cam- 
era positioned  on  a  tripod  cannot  approximate  the 
dance  performance  as  experienced  in  the  theater  The 
frame  of  the  camera's  viewfinder  delimits  the  percep- 
tion of  the  space  as  does  the  two-dimensional  property 
of  the  photographic  image  The  history  of  American  in- 
dependent film  and  video  is  distinguished  by  the  work 
of  a  variety  of  artists  and  choreographers  who  have  em- 
ployed editing,  framing,  sound,  camera  movement, 
image  processing,  and  the  distinctive  properties  of  pro- 
jected film  and  the  video  monitor  to  refashion  our  per- 
ception and  understanding  of  dance 

Meredith  Monk,  one  of  the  key  figures  in  post-modern 
dance,  has  been  making  films  and  videotapes  since 
the  mid-1960s  The  success  of  her  films  and  videotapes 
rests  in  part  on  the  strong  imagery  of  her  movements 
and  the  visual  character  of  her  staged  tableaux  How- 
ever, Monk  does  not  simply  record  her  performances, 
force  them  into  the  constraints  of  the  medium,  or  dupli- 
cate earlier  cinematic  strategies  She  evokes  the  quality 
of  her  live  performances  by  treating  the  lllusionistic 
space  of  film  and  videotape  as  her  stage 

Monk's  involvement  in  film  began  with  the  incorpora- 
tion of  the  projected  image  into  her  performances  In  16 
Millimeter  Earrings  (1966),  film  became  an  integral 
part  of  the  work  A  projected  image  transforms  Monk's 
face  into  a  mask  The  scope  of  Monk's  work  in  film  is  il- 
lustrated by  a  later  work,  Ellis  Island  ( 1981 ),  in  which  she 
places  her  dancers  within  the  eerie  abandoned  build- 
ings on  the  island  This  tape  illustrates  another  impor- 
tant element  of  Monk's  work:  its  focus  on  the  vernacular 
Her  dancers  portray  characters  whose  movements  tell 
stories  about  personal  experiences  that  bespeak  a  shared 
cultural  history.  These  performances  infuse  traditional 
narrative  images  with  the  abstract  possibilities  of 
dance,  a  quality  that  makes  her  work  particularly  con- 
ducive to  the  temporal  nature  of  the  moving  image 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  February  28,  following  the 
11:15  screening.  Meredith  Monk  will  be  present. 


16  Millimeter  Earrings,  1966  Photograph  by  Kenneth  Van  Sickle 

In  1983  Meredith  Monk  produced  Turtle  Dreams  (Waltz),  a 
videotape  in  which  the  cadence  of  her  voice  establishes 
a  rhythm  for  the  dancers.  In  the  opening  section,  we  see 
the  movement  of  the  dancers  playing  with  the  mimetic 
properties  of  gesture  The  turtle's  movement  is  evoked 
by  their  own  movement  and  the  call  of  their  voices  as 
they  perform  within  a  neutral,  white  studio  space  The 
final  section  of  the  tape  shows  a  turtle  moving  through 
a  miniature  city.  The  effect  on  the  screen  is  of  a  giant 
turtle  wandering  through  an  actual  cityscape  The  se- 
quence concludes  with  the  turtle  moving  across  a  bar- 
ren landscape  and  looking  up  at  the  moon  in  the  night- 
time sky  In  Turtle  Dreams,  Monk  evokes  the  mystery  of 
dreams  as  the  basis  of  an  imaginary  tableau  for  both 
dance  and  image  making 

This  combination  of  dance  and  the  imaginary  as  both  fact 
(Ellis  Island)  and  fiction  (Turtle  Dreams)  is  a  distinctive 
feature  of  Monk's  art.  She  works  with  film  and  videotape  be- 
cause these  media  express  her  vision  of  dance  as  a  truly  mul- 
timedia art  form 

JohnG,  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  with  a  grant 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts 


Biography 

Meredith  Monk  has  created  more  than  fifty  works  in  music,  theater, 
dance,  film,  and  video  since  1964  A  graduate  of  Sarah  Lawrence 
College.  Bronxville.  New  York,  she  has  received  numerous  awards 
and  grants,  among  them  two  Guggenheim  Fellowships  ( 1972. 1982) 
Dolmen  Music  won  the  German  Critics  Prize  for  Best  Record  in  1 98 1 
Her  filmEiiis  Island  won  the  CINE  Golden  Eagle  in  198 1 .  as  well  as 
the  Special  Jury  Prize  of  the  Atlanta  Film  Festival  ( 1 98 1 ).  and  was 
shown  nationally  on  PBS  television  m  1983.  In  1968  Monk  founded 
The  House  Foundation  for  the  Arts,  a  company  dedicated  to  an  inter- 
disciplinary approach  to  performance,  and  m  1978  formed  the  Mer- 
edith Monk  Vocal  Ensemble  Monk  and  her  companies  have  toured 
extensively  throughout  the  United  States  and  abroad  She  lives  and' 
works  m  New  York 


Selected  Bibliography 

Banes,  Sally.  'Meredith  Monk:  Homemade  Metaphors  '  In  Terp- 
sichore in  Sneakers:  Post-Modern  Dance  Boston:  Houghton  Mif- 
flin Company.  1980.  pp  148-65 

Berger,  Mark.  'Meredith  Monk:  A  Metamorphic  Theater. '  Art- 
forum.  11  (May  1973).  pp  60-63 

Marranca.  Bonnie  'Meredith  Monk's  Recent  Ruins.  The  Archeol- 
ogy of  Consciousness:  Essaying  Images,'  Performing  Arts  Jour- 
nal. 4  (Spring  1980).  pp  39-49 

Skura,  Stephanie.  'Interview  with  Meredith  Monk, '  Heresies  A  Fem- 
inist Publication  on  Art  &  Politics.  5(Issue  17,  1984).  pp  8-11 

Westwater.  Angela.  'Meredith  Monk:  An  Introduction, '  Artforum. 
11  (May  1973).  pp.  57-59. 

All  films  and  videotapes  were  directed  by  Meredith  Monk,  except 
where  otherwise  noted. 

Films 

All  films  are  16mm.  except  where  otherwise  noted 

Children.  1966.  Black  and  white,  silent;  9  minutes.  Camera,  Phil 

Niblock;  editing,  David  Geary 
16  Millimeter  Earrings.  1966.  Black  and  white,  silent.  4  minutes 

Camera.  Kenneth  Van  Sickle 
Ballbearing,  1968.  Color,  silent;  13  minutes.  Camera,  Meredith 

Monk  and  George  Landow. 
Mountain.  1971  Color,  silent,  10  minutes.  Camera,  Robin  Lloyd, 

editing.  David  Geary 
Quarry,  1975.  Black  and  white,  silent;  5  minutes.  Camera  and 

editing.  David  Geary 
Humboldt's  Current.  1977  Black  and  white,  silent;  5  minutes  (also 

in  Super-8).  Camera.  Meredith  Monk,  editing,  Meredith  Monk 

and  Tony  Janetti 
Quarry,  1978.  Color,  sound;  86  minutes.  Documentation,  Amram 

Nowak  Associates 
Ellis  Island.  1979  Black  and  white,  silent;  7  minutes  (also  in 

35mm)  Associate  director,  Robert  Rosen,  camera.  Jerry  Panzer 
16  Millimeter  Earrings.  1980.  Color,  sound;  25  minutes.  Producer, 

director,  and  photographer.  Robert  Withers. 
Ellislsland,  1981  Black  and  white  and  color,  sound;  28  minutes  (also 

in  35mm)  Co-director,  Robert  Rosen;  camera.  Jerry  Panzer. 

music,  Meredith  Monk 
Mermaid  Adventures.  1983  Color,  silent;  10  minutes  Camera. 

David  Geary 


Artist's  Statement 

When  I  used  film  in  my  performance  works,  it  was  a  way 
of  incorporating  another  reality  into  live  performance 
Film  has  always  been  a  means  Of  achieving  things  that 
were  difficult  to  fulfill  in  live  theater:  scale  differentia- 
tion— extreme  close-ups  on  objects  or  people;  extreme 
long  shots,  quick  shifts  of  environment  (in  live  perform- 
ance this  is  usually  achieved  by  a  change  of  scenery, 
which  takes  a  long  time)  Even  though  film  began  for 
me  as  only  one  element  in  a  collage  including  music  / 
movement  /  persona  or  character  /  object  /  light  /  text,  I 
always  allowed  it  to  retain  its  discreet  identity:  it  was 
always  projected  alone  (often  in  silence)  so  that  its 
filmic  qualities  were  left  intact. 

I  thought  of  the  film  images  as  a  visual  rhyme  or  coun- 
terpoint to  what  was  going  on  on  stage  I  devised  ways 
of  projecting  film  that  gave  it  a  plasticity  and  im- 
mediacy within  the  performance  canvas  For  example, 
in  16  Millimeter  Earrings  (1966),  I  projected  a  color  se- 
quence of  my  face  onto  a  large  white  dome  that  was 
over  my  head  so  that  the  film  became  a  live  mask  or 
the  image  of  a  large  head  on  a  small  body  Playing  with 
simultaneous  realities  was  important  in  my  early  work 
Over  the  years  I  became  more  and  more  interested  in 
film  as  a  form  in  and  of  itself.  Ballbearing  (1968).  for  ex- 
ample, was  designed  as  an  installation  to  be  projected 
forward  and  backward  so  that  the  public  could  watch 
it  as  long  as  they  wished  I  began  to  realize  that  film 
was  an  ideal  way  for  me  to  fulfill  my  interest  in  both 
images  and  music.  I  found  as  I  was  editing  film  that  the 
process  was  not  unlike  my  experience  of  writing  music 
and  that  images  have  an  inherent  musicality  within 
themselves 

In  most  of  my  films,  the  location  is  an  important  ele- 
ment In  Ellis  Island  (1979  and  1981)  the  environment 
played  the  major  role  Ellis  Island  began  as  a  seven- 
minute  film  in  1979  I  became  so  interested  in  it  that  I 
continued  working  on  it  and  it  eventually  turned  into  a 
half-hour  film 

Now  I  am  working  on  a  feature-length  film  It  allows  me 
to  use  all  the  elements  of  my  performances  within  a  con- 
crete environment 

Meredith  Monk 


Videotapes 

All  videotapes  are  %  inch 

Paris.  1982  Color,  sound.  26  minutes  Conception,  performance, 
and  artistic  direction  by  Meredith  Monk  and  Ping  Chong,  pro- 
duced and  directed  by  Mark  Lowry  and  Kathryn  Escher;  cam- 
era, Tom  Adair,  music,  Meredith  Monk  Made  in  cooperation 
with  the  Walker  Art  Center  and  KTCA-TV,  Minneapolis 

Turtle  Dreams  (Waltz).  1983  Color,  sound,  27  minutes  Performed 
by  Meredith  Monk  Vocal  Ensemble,  directed  by  Ping  Chong; 
camera,  Robin  Doty  and  Carolyn  Stanley;  music,  Meredith 
Monk 


Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1 :00-8:00 

Wednesday  Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  ©  1985  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  America:  ; 

^    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM   AND   VIDEO 


Recoding  Blackness 


June  18— July  3 


The  Visual  Rhetoric  of  Black 
Independent  Film 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  June  20,  after  the  12:00 
screening.  James  A.  Snead  will  be  present. 


Receding  blackness  means  revising  visual  codes  sur- 
rounding black  skin  on  screen  and  in  the  public  realm.  In 
the  traditional  dialectic  of  film  and  audience,  the  spectator 
takes  pleasure  in  recognizing  what  "  everyone  knows  "  to 
be  obviously  true.  Stereotyped  images,  most  notoriously 
of  women  and  blacks,  hide  real  paradoxes,  contradictions, 
and  inequities  in  society  underneath  the  unthinking  plea- 
sure of  filmic  recognition.  Particularly  in  Hollywood's  early 
character  repertoire,  black  skin  signified  "subhuman,  sim- 
pleminded,  superstitious,  and  submissive"  (Leab).  Con- 
tinuous association  has  fixed  and  transmitted  this  falsi- 
fication, and  the  repetition  of  codes  seems  to  validate  the 
first  coding  as  correct  and  the  later  versions  as  obviously 
true.  Independent  black  films,  as  recodings,  reproduce 
such  stereotypes  and  yet  coin  unconventional  associa- 
tions for  black  skin  within  the  reigning  film  language.  The 
films  collected  here  make  the  Hollywood  black  no  longer  a 
credible  "imitation  of  life, "  and  challenge  our  wider  valua- 
tions of  blackness  in  society  as  in  cinema.  Program  I  ex- 
plores the  effects  of  codes  on  the  self-image  and  welfare  of 
the  black  community.  Program  II  shows  individual  blacks 
fighting  racial  stereotypes  within  wider  society.  Program 
HI  presents  solutions  to  the  problem  of  coding  through 
intrinsic  properties  of  filmic  montage  and  syntax. 


Framed  "in  Their  Place": 
Paradigmatic  Limitation 

The  term  "paradigmatic  limitation"  refers  to  the  selection 
of  roles,  images,  and  narrative  representations  of  blacks. 
The  historical  change  in  black  coding  derives  in  part  from 
the  changing  socio-economic  status  of  the  black  and  the 
ideology  that  arose  to  keep  him  "in  his  place,"  a  place 
whose  fixity  becomes  clear  in  the  tragi-comic  A  Place  in 
Time  and  in  more  bitter  terms  in  Bless  Their  Little  Hearts. 
The  treatment  of  blackness  within  the  single  frame  is  an 
inheritance  from  extra-cinematic  conventions  concerning 
black  skin  which  exploit  the  ambiguous  properties  of 
color.  The  color  black  can  be  an  icon  (black  is  similar  to 
night),  but  also,  in  European  cultures,  a  learned  symbol  of 
evil  or  death.  The  color  black,  for  the  Western  viewer, 
seems  to  be  a  visual  experience  in  search  of  an  idea,  a 
visual  otherness  that  the  dominant  eye  wishes  to 
organize,  never  quite  succeeding,  within  a  static  scheme. 


Over  four  centuries  we  have  seen  such  widely  divergent 
images  of  blackness  as  Melchior  (the  noblest  of  the  Three 
Wise  Men  in  Renaissance  painting)  and  Sambo,  who  in 
America  became  the  stereotype  of  the  buffoonish,  incom- 
petent black. 

The  code  constructs  from  the  smallest  meaningful  dif- 
ference or  seme  an  entire  "universe  of  ideologies,  ar- 
ranged in  codes  and  sub-codes"  (Eco).  The  perceptual 
seme  "  black/white "  is  the  germ  of  a  prolif erant  ideology 
coding  the  scale  from  black  skin  to  white  skin  as  an  index 
of  social  value.  Death  of  a  Dunbar  Girl  and  Color  show 
coding's  pervasiveness,  appearing  as  a  kind  of  color  con- 
sciousness adopted  by  the  very  group  that  it  victimizes 
(Fanon).  Even  as  the  "I"  codes  the  "other, "  it  can  easily  be 
tricked  by  a  similar  process :  the  political  stereotyping  of 
the  social  "other"  in  an  ideological  discourse  that  aims  to 
fix  not  the  subject's  perceptual  relationship  to  the  other, 
but  the  other's  social  relationship  to  the  subject.  Ide- 
ological coding  renders  its  own  operation  invisible;  the 
code  is  seen  as  natural,  "the  world  itself"  (Nichols).  The 
term  "framing"  plays  on  the  negative  effects  of  film's 
related  cinematic  stabilization  of  the  subject/other  rela- 
tion (Panofsky).  From  Harlem  to  Harvard,  Shipley  Street, 
The  Sky  Is  Grey,  and  Ali,  the  Fighter  show  blacks  confront- 
ing, with  only  measured  success,  white  assumptions  of 
black  inferiority  that  coding  has  falsely  promulgated  as 
"the  way  things  are." 

By  accepting  the  place  of  authority  where  he  has  been 
addressed  by  screen  and  society,  the  dominant  "I"  para- 
doxically marks  himself,  not  as  autonomous  and  omnipo- 
tent, but  as  captured  and  appropriated  by  a  dialectic  that 
requires  the  "other"  in  order  to  function.  The  stability  that 
framing  provides  is  fictional  (or  "Imaginary" — Lacan).  The 
spectator-subject  codes  the  black  as  servile  or  absent  in 
order  to  code  himself  as  masterful  and  present.  The  black 
serves,  in  other  words,  as  an  "Imaginary"  remedy  for  the 
spectator-subject's  lack  of  authority.  The  black's  margin- 
ality  sets  the  viewing  "I"  in  place  on  screen  or  in  society, 
but  the  black's  viewpoint  may  never  be  attained  by  the 
spectator's  eye.  The  black  is  a  structuring  absence,  the 
"internal  shadow  of  exclusion"  (Althusser)  that  allows  the 
film  frame  to  function,  when  coding  either  villainy  or  spa- 
tial exclusion. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  with  a  grant 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Biography 

Meredith  Monk  has  created  more  than  fifty  works  in  music,  theater. 
dance,  film,  and  video  since  1964  A  graduate  of  Sarah  Lawrence 
College,  Bronxville.  New  York,  she  has  received  numerous  awards 
and  grants,  among  them  two  Guggenheim  Fellowships  (1972, 1982) 
Dolmen  Music  won  the  German  Critics  Prize  for  Best  Record  in  1 98 1 
Her  film  Ellis  Island  won  the  CINE  Golden  Eagle  in  1981.  as  well  as 
the  Special  Jury  Prize  of  the  Atlanta  Film  Festival  ( 198 1 ),  and  was 
shown  nationally  on  PBS  television  in  1983  In  1968  Monk  founded 
The  House  Foundation  for  the  Arts,  a  company  dedicated  to  an  inter- 
disciplinary approach  to  performance,  and  m  1 978  formed  the  Mer- 
edith Monk  Vocal  Ensemble  Monk  and  her  companies  have  toured 
extensively  throughout  the  United  States  and  abroad  She  lives  and' 
works  in  New  York. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Banes.  Sally,  "Meredith  Monk  Homemade  Metaphors '  In  Terp 
sichore  in  Sneakers  Post-Modern  Dance-  Boston  Houghton  Mif- 
flin Company,  1980.  pp  148-65 

Berger,  Mark,  'Meredith  Monk:  A  Metamorphic  Theater, '  Art- 
forum,  11  (May  1973),  pp  60-63 

Marranca,  Bonnie  'Meredith  Monk's  Recent  Ruins.  The  Archeol- 
ogy of  Consciousness:  Essaying  Images, '  Performing  Arts  Jour- 
nal, 4  (Spring  1980).  pp  39-49. 

Skura,  Stephanie  "Interview  with  Meredith  Monk, '  Heresies  A  Fern  - 
inist  Publication  on  Art  &  Politics,  5(Issue  17,  1984),  pp  8-11 

Westwater.  Angela.  'Meredith  Monk  An  Introduction. '  Artforum, 
11  (May  1973).  pp.  57-59. 

All  films  and  videotapes  were  directed  by  Meredith  Monk,  except 
where  otherwise  noted 

Films 

All  films  are  16mm.  except  where  otherwise  noted 

Children.  1966  Black  and  white,  silent;  9  minutes.  Camera,  Phil 

Niblock;  editing,  David  Geary 
16  Millimeter  Earrings.  1966  Black  and  white,  silent,  4  minutes 

Camera.  Kenneth  Van  Sickle 
Ballbearing.  1968.  Color,  silent;  13  minutes.  Camera,  Meredith 

Monk  and  George  Landow 
Mountain,  1971.  Color,  silent;  10  minutes.  Camera,  Robin  Lloyd; 

editing,  David  Geary 
Quarry,  1975.  Black  and  white,  silent,  5  minutes  Camera  and 

editing.  David  Geary 
Humboldt's  Current.  1977  Black  and  white,  silent;  5  minutes  (also 

in  Super-8).  Camera,  Meredith  Monk;  editing.  Meredith  Monk 

and  Tony  Janetti 
Quarry,  1978  Color,  sound;  86  minutes  Documentation,  Amram 

Nowak  Associates 
Ellis  Island,  1979  Black  and  white,  silent;  7  minutes  (also  in 

35mm).  Associate  director,  Robert  Rosen,  camera,  Jerry  Panzer 
16  Millimeter  Earrings.  1980  Color,  sound;  25  minutes.  Producer, 

director,  and  photographer,  Robert  Withers. 
Ellis  Island.  1981  Black  and  white  and  color,  sound,  28  minutes  (also 

in  35mm)  Co-director.  Robert  Rosen;  camera,  Jerry  Panzer; 

music,  Meredith  Monk 
Mermaid  Adventures.  1983  Color,  silent;  10  minutes  Camera, 

David  Geary 


Artist's  Statement 

When  I  used  film  in  my  performance  works,  it  was  a  way 
of  incorporating  another  reality  into  live  performance 
Film  has  always  been  a  means  of  achieving  things  that 
were  difficult  to  fulfill  in  live  theater:  scale  differentia- 
tion— extreme  close-ups  on  objects  or  people,  extreme 
long  shots;  quick  shifts  of  environment  (in  live  perform- 
ance this  is  usually  achieved  by  a  change  of  scenery, 
which  takes  a  long  time)  Even  though  film  began  for 
me  as  only  one  element  in  a  collage  including  music  / 
movement  /  persona  or  character  /  object  /  light  /  text.  I 
always  allowed  it  to  retain  its  discreet  identity  it  was 
always  projected  alone  (often  in  silence)  so  that  its 
filmic  qualities  were  left  intact 

I  thought  of  the  film  images  as  a  visual  rhyme  or  coun- 
terpoint to  what  was  going  on  on  stage  I  devised  ways 
of  projecting  film  that  gave  it  a  plasticity  and  im- 
mediacy within  the  performance  canvas  For  example, 
in  16  Millimeter  Earrings  (1966),  I  projected  a  color  se- 
quence of  my  face  onto  a  large  white  dome  that  was 
over  my  head  so  that  the  film  became  a  live  mask  or 
the  image  of  a  large  head  on  a  small  body  Playing  with 
simultaneous  realities  was  important  in  my  early  work 
Over  the  years  I  became  more  and  more  interested  in 
film  as  a  form  in  and  of  itself  Ballbearing  ( 1968),  for  ex- 
ample, was  designed  as  an  installation  to  be  projected 
forward  and  backward  so  that  the  public  could  watch 
it  as  long  as  they  wished  I  began  to  realize  that  film 
was  an  ideal  way  for  me  to  fulfill  my  interest  in  both 
images  and  music.  I  found  as  I  was  editing  film  that  the 
process  was  not  unlike  my  experience  of  writing  music 
and  that  images  have  an  inherent  musicality  within 
themselves 

In  most  of  my  films,  the  location  is  an  important  ele- 
ment In  Ellis  Island  (1979  and  1981)  the  environment 
played  the  major  role  Ellis  Island  began  as  a  seven- 
minute  film  in  1979  I  became  so  interested  in  it  that  I 
continued  working  on  it  and  it  eventually  turned  into  a 
half-hour  film 

Now  I  am  working  on  a  feature-length  film  It  allows  me 
to  use  all  the  elements  of  my  performances  within  a  con- 
crete environment 

Meredith  Monk 


Videotapes 

All  videotapes  are  %  inch 

Paris.  1982.  Color,  sound,  26  minutes  Conception,  performance, 
and  artistic  direction  by  Meredith  Monk  and  Ping  Chong,  pro- 
duced and  directed  by  Mark  Lowry  and  Kathryn  Escher:  cam- 
era, Tom  Adair,  music,  Meredith  Monk  Made  in  cooperation 
the  Walker  Art  Center  and  KTCA-TV.  Minneapolis 

Turtle  Dreams  (Waltz).  1983  Color,  sound;  27  minutes  Performed 
by  Meredith  Monk  Vocal  Ensemble,  directed  by  Ping  Chong; 
camera,  Robin  Doty  and  Carolyn  Stanley;  music,  Meredith 
Monk 


Whitney  Museum  ol  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1 :00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-500 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  Information:  (212)  570  0537 


Copyright  ©  1985  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


rhitney  Museum  of  Amei  23 

*©    The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM   AND   VIDEO 


Recoding  Blackness 


June  18— July  3 


The  Visual  Rhetoric  of  Black 
Independent  Film 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  June  20,  after  the  12:00 
screening.  James  A.  Snead  will  be  present. 


Recoding  blackness  means  revising  visual  codes  sur- 
rounding black  skin  on  screen  and  in  the  public  realm.  In 
the  traditional  dialectic  of  film  and  audience,  the  spectator 
takes  pleasure  in  recognizing  what  "  everyone  knows "  to 
be  obviously  true.  Stereotyped  images,  most  notoriously 
of  women  and  blacks,  hide  real  paradoxes,  contradictions, 
and  inequities  in  society  underneath  the  unthinking  plea- 
sure of  filmic  recognition.  Particularly  in  Hollywood's  early 
character  repertoire,  black  skin  signified  "subhuman,  sim- 
pleminded,  superstitious,  and  submissive"  (Leab).  Con- 
tinuous association  has  fixed  and  transmitted  this  falsi- 
fication, and  the  repetition  of  codes  seems  to  validate  the 
first  coding  as  correct  and  the  later  versions  as  obviously 
true.  Independent  black  films,  as  recodings,  reproduce 
such  stereotypes  and  yet  coin  unconventional  associa- 
tions for  black  skin  within  the  reigning  film  language.  The 
films  collected  here  make  the  Hollywood  black  no  longer  a 
credible  "imitation  of  life, "  and  challenge  our  wider  valua- 
tions of  blackness  in  society  as  in  cinema.  Program  I  ex- 
plores the  effects  of  codes  on  the  self-image  and  welfare  of 
the  black  community.  Program  II  shows  individual  blacks 
fighting  racial  stereotypes  within  wider  society.  Program 
HI  presents  solutions  to  the  problem  of  coding  through 
intrinsic  properties  of  filmic  montage  and  syntax. 


Framed  "in  Their  Place": 
Paradigmatic  Limitation 

The  term  "paradigmatic  limitation"  lefers  to  the  selection 
of  roles,  images,  and  narrative  representations  of  blacks. 
The  historical  change  in  black  coding  derives  in  part  from 
the  changing  socio-economic  status  of  the  black  and  the 
ideology  that  arose  to  keep  him  "in  his  place,"  a  place 
whose  fixity  becomes  clear  in  the  tragi-comic  A  Place  in 
Time  and  in  more  bitter  terms  in  Bless  Their  Little  Hearts. 
The  treatment  of  blackness  within  the  single  frame  is  an 
inheritance  from  extra-cinematic  conventions  concerning 
black  skin  which  exploit  the  ambiguous  properties  of 
color.  The  color  black  can  be  an  icon  (black  is  similar  to 
night),  but  also,  in  European  cultures,  a  learned  symbol  of 
evil  or  death.  The  color  black,  for  the  Western  viewer, 
seems  to  be  a  visual  experience  in  search  of  an  idea,  a 
visual  otherness  that  the  dominant  eye  wishes  to 
organize,  never  quite  succeeding,  within  a  static  scheme. 


Over  four  centuries  we  have  seen  such  widely  divergent 
images  of  blackness  as  Melchior  (the  noblest  of  the  Three 
Wise  Men  in  Renaissance  painting)  and  Sambo,  who  in 
America  became  the  stereotype  of  the  buffoonish,  incom- 
petent black. 

The  code  constructs  from  the  smallest  meaningful  dif- 
ference or  seme  an  entire  "universe  of  ideologies,  ar- 
ranged in  codes  and  sub-codes"  (Eco).  The  perceptual 
seme  "black/ white"  is  the  germ  of  a  proliferant  ideology 
coding  the  scale  from  black  skin  to  white  skin  as  an  index 
of  social  value.  Death  of  a  Dunbar  Girl  and  Color  show 
coding's  pervasiveness,  appearing  as  a  kind  of  color  con- 
sciousness adopted  by  the  very  group  that  it  victimizes 
(Fanon).  Even  as  the  "I"  codes  the  "other, "  it  can  easily  be 
tricked  by  a  similar  process :  the  political  stereotyping  of 
the  social  "other"  in  an  ideological  discourse  that  aims  to 
fix  not  the  subject's  perceptual  relationship  to  the  other, 
but  the  other's  social  relationship  to  the  subject.  Ide- 
ological coding  renders  its  own  operation  invisible;  the 
code  is  seen  as  natural,  "the  world  itself"  (Nichols).  The 
term  "framing"  plays  on  the  negative  effects  of  film's 
related  cinematic  stabilization  of  the  subject/other  rela- 
tion (Panofsky).  From  Harlem  to  Harvard,  Shipley  Street, 
The  Sky  Is  Grey,  and  Ali,  the  Fighter  show  blacks  confront- 
ing, with  only  measured  success,  white  assumptions  of 
black  inferiority  that  coding  has  falsely  promulgated  as 
"the  way  things  are." 

By  accepting  the  place  of  authority  where  he  has  been 
addressed  by  screen  and  society,  the  dominant  "I"  para- 
doxically marks  himself,  not  as  autonomous  and  omnipo- 
tent, but  as  captured  and  appropriated  by  a  dialectic  that 
requires  the  "  other"  in  order  to  function.  The  stability  that 
framing  provides  is  fictional  (or  "Imaginary" — Lacan).  The 
spectator-subject  codes  the  black  as  servile  or  absent  in 
order  to  code  himself  as  masterful  and  present.  The  black 
serves,  in  other  words,  as  an  "Imaginary"  remedy  for  the 
spectator-subject's  lack  of  authority.  The  black's  margin- 
ality  sets  the  viewing  "I"  in  place  on  screen  or  in  society, 
but  the  black's  viewpoint  may  never  be  attained  by  the 
spectator's  eye.  The  black  is  a  structuring  absence,  the 
"internal  shadow  of  exclusion"  (Althusser)  that  allows  the 
film  frame  to  function,  when  coding  either  villainy  or  spa- 
tial exclusion. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  with  a  grant 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


The  Other  Place:  Syntagmatic  Freedom 
Given  the  obsessive  coding  of  blacks  iconically  and  spa- 
tially within  the  cinematic  frame,  one  might  wonder 
where,  if  anywhere,  a  filmmaker  could  recode  blackness. 
Plot  seems  to  limit  blacks'  freedom,  based  as  it  is  upon  a 
sense  of  general  social  possibility.  Typically,  plot  narrows 
the  multiple  choices  available  to  the  protagonist  in  the 
"land  of  limitless  opportunity. "  Withblacks,  however,  such 
narrative  leeway  is  already  eliminated  before  the  film  be- 
gins. For  black  people  there  has  not  even  been  an  Imagi- 
nary possibility  of  being  whole  or  successful  or  powerful 
or  free  in  white  society.  Coding  of  blacks  also  puts  re- 
straints on  endings.  Narrative  begins  with  an  obstacle  or 
lack  that  the  spectator  desires  to  have  removed  or  rem- 
edied by  the  conclusion  (Propp).  Yet  films  about  blacks 
defeat  expectation  of  complete  closure  and  restoration; 
black  skin  appears  on  screen  already  coded  as  a  lack. 

Therefore  blackness  introduces  into  film  narrative 
enigma  and  non-resolution,  the  two  preconditions  of  an 
^terminable  hermeneutical  chain  (Barthes).  The  enigma 
is  the  question,  "Why  is  the  black  skin  already  coded, 
already  unfree?" — a  question  posed,  but  typically  left  un- 
answered. Non-resolution  occurs  because  no  narrative 
could  resolve  the  black's  overriding  lack  of  social  presence 
and  political  authority  except  the  end  of  the  socio-political 
system  itself.  Yet  even  such  an  apocalypse  would,  if  real, 
take  place  after  and  not  within  the  film  narrative.  Hence 
the  coding  of  the  black  in  the  single  frame  radically  dis- 
rupts the  conventions  surrounding  a  narrative  sequence 
of  them,  preventing  a  convincingly  restorative,  Imaginary 
ending  that  would  set  aside  the  effects  of  coding. 

Film  discourse  has  two  aspects:  choice  (paradigmatic) 
and  construction  (syntagmatic).  The  first  category 
chooses  codes  and  premises  of  plot,  what  goes  with  what 
and  what  gets  cut.  The  syntagmatic  axis  controls  what 
follows  what  and  employs  not  cutting  out,  but  cutting — 
editing  and  montage.  The  syntagmatic  units  of  film  are 
shot,  sequence,  and  scene,  linked  by  straight  cuts,  fades, 
and  dissolves.  These  filmic  punctuations  provide  a  locus 
for  recoding  that  black  filmmakers  thoroughly  exploit.  Cin- 
ematic montage  and  suture  incessantly  point  the  spec- 
tator to  a  constantly  deferred  second  shot  that  tries  to 
complete  the  one  before  it,  but  never  quite  succeeds 
(Oudart).  The  syntagmatic  axis,  in  this  sense,  must  always 
remain  tentative,  incomplete,  and  inadequate.  Since  the 
meaning  of  frames  is  retrospective,  each  shot  might  alter 
what  had  been  seen  previously  as  fixed  and  coded.  Hence, 
recoding  can  arise  from  the  very  nature  of  film  language, 
rupturing  previous  significations  in  unexpected  ways. 
Where  black  skin  is  already  framed,  or  coded  into  place, 
montage  might  be  the  only  realm  of  freedom.  Semioclasm, 
the  "smashing  of  codes,"  does  not  return  the  lack  to  the 
(b)lack,  as  coding  does,  but  returns  the  sign  to  zero,  where 
it  begins  afresh,  mounted  in  a  new  context  (Barthes). 

The  unexpected  cuts  of  Sky  Captain  and  The  Nightmare 
and  the  open-endedness  of  A  Dream  Is  What  You  Wake  Up 
From  and  A  Different  Image  dismantle  the  caricature,  de- 
nature the  stereotype,  and  alter  the  code.  In  Program  HI, 
cutting  allows  the  framed  present  to  be  transcended,  as  in 
the  African  dance  sequences  in  Sky  Captain.  These  unex- 


pected parallel  or  bracket  syntagmas  of  sound  and  sight 

make  the  African  eruption  not  nostalgic  or  Imaginary,  but 

an  always  imminent  possibility  of  abrupt  transition  to  an 

unexpectedly  different  shot  and  to  a  qualitatively  different 

place.  The  cutting  between  the  framed  present  and  the 

African  scene  is  all  the  more  subversive  because  of  the 

inherent  atemporality  of  filmic  sequence:  Does  the  vision 

of  the  reconstituted  black  skin  flash  backward  to  Africa  or 

forward  to  a  post-liberation  reality? 

In  these  films,  the  "place  of  the  other"  gives  way  to  the 

"other  place."  The  difference  comes  directly  from  suture 

(traditional  invisible  cutting,  continuity,  and  point-of-view 

techniques),  revealing  it  as  not  at  all  self-explanatory,  but 

fully  iconoclastic.  Even  Metz,  who  plotted  a  syntagmatic 

grammar  of  film,  his  "grande  syntagmatique,  "  confesses, 

"I  do  not  yet  understand  cinematographic  language. "  The 

language  that  defies  all  description  defines  film's 

uniqueness  and  its  possibilities.  Here,  at  the  syntagmatic 

axis,  the  black  filmmaker  exercises  the  freedom  to  recode 

blackness.  The  "other  place"  on  the  filmstrip  comes  after 

the  coded  past  and  present,  no  longer  addressing  the 

dominant  "I,"  but  redressing  codes  in  the  unknown  shot 

to  come. 

James  A.  Snead 

Guest  Curator 

Special  thanks  to  The  Black  Filmmaker  Foundation  and  Third  World 
Newsreel  for  their  assistance  in  the  preparation  of  this  exhibition. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Althusser,  Louis.  For  Marx.  Translated  by  Ben  Brewster.  New  York;  Vin- 
tage, 1969. 
Barthes,  Roland.  Elements  of  Semiology/Writing  Degree  Zero.  Translated 

by  Annette  Lavers  and  Colin  Smith.  Boston:  Beacon,  1968. 
Cripps,  Thomas.  Black  Film  as  Genre.  Bloomington:  Indiana  University 

Press,  1978. 
Eco,  Umberto,  A  Theory  of  Semiotics.  Bloomington:  Indiana  University 

Press,  1976. 
Fanon,  Franz.  Black  Skin,  White  Masks.  Translated  by  Charles  L.  Mark- 

mann.  New  York:  Grove,  1967. 
Heath,  Stephen.  "Narrative  Space"  in  Screen,  17  (1976),  pp.  68-112. 
Lacan,  Jacques.  Ecrits:  A  Selection  Translated  by  Alan  Shendan  Smith. 

New  York:  WW.  Norton,  1977. 
Leab,  Daniel  J.  From  Sambo  to  Superspade:  The  Black  Experience  m  Motion 

Pictures  Boston:  Houghton  Mifflin,  1975. 
Metz,  Christian.  Film  Language.  New  York:  Oxford  University  Press,  1974. 
Murray,  James  P.  To  Find  an  Image:  Black  Films  from  Uncle  Tom  to  Super 

Fly.  Indianapolis:  Bobbs-Memll,  1973. 
Nichols,  Bill.  Ideology  and  the  Image   Bloomington;  Indiana  University 

Press,  1981. 
Oudart,  Jean-Pierre.  "La  Suture,"  Cahiers  du  Cinema,  211  (1969),  pp. 

36-39. 

"La  Suture  H,"  Cahiers  du  Cinema,  212  (1969),  pp.  50-55. 

Panofsky,  Erwin.   "Style  and  Medium  in  the  Motion  Pictures,"   in 

D.Talbot,  ed.Film. An  Anthology  New  York:  Simon  and  Schuster,  1959. 
Propp,  Vladimir.  Morphology  of  the  Folktale  Translated  by  Laurence  Scott. 

Austin:  University  of  Texas  Press,  1968. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  0  1985  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  24 
The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Rita  Myers 


September  28-November  3,  1985 


The  Allure  of  the  Concentric,  1985. 
Video  installation.  On  view  continuously 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday  October  10,  at  2:00 
Rita  Myers  will  be  present. 


Elements: 

Posts  and  gate.  Aluminum  and  expanded  aluminum,  60  X  96  X  14  inches. 

Reflecting  pool.  Wood  and  fiberglass,  126  X  102  X  12  inches. 

Three  towers.  Aluminum  and  expanded  aluminum,  132  x  27  x  27  inches. 

Scenic  rocks.  Lava,  each  approximately  36  x  24  x  8  inches. 

Three  dead  trees. 

Four  videotapes.  %  inch,  color,  sound;  6-minute  loop. 


Rita  Myers'  installations  mix  video  images  with  architec- 
tural and  natural  forms  to  create  theatrical  environments 
that  invite  contemplation.  Her  latest  piece,  The  Allure  of 
the  Concentric  (1985),  combines  the  dramatic  treatment  of 
space  of  her  earlier  Dancing  in  the  Land  Where  Children 
Are  the  Light  (1981)  with  the  powerful  architectural  motifs 
of  The  Forms  That  Begin  at  the  Outer  Rim  (1983). 

One  enters  the  gallery  through  a  gate,  a  symbolic  repre- 
sentation of  crossing  over  from  the  real  to  the  imaginary. 
The  focal  point  of  the  space  is  a  large  reflecting  pool 
located  in  the  center  of  the  gallery.  Over  the  pool  hang 
three  dead  trees.  A  steady  flow  of  water  drips  slowly  from 
the  trees  into  the  water,  creating  concentric  ripples.  The 
pool  is  surrounded  by  three  aluminum  towers  and  clusters 
of  large  rocks,  which  camouflage  four  monitors  displaying 
expansive  images  of  the  American  West.  Within  this  en- 
vironment, Myers  speculates  on  universal  archetypal 
forms  that  emanate  both  from  nature — the  trees,  rocks, 
and  water — and  from  culture — the  towers,  gate,  and  pool. 

The  Allure  of  the  Concentric  can  be  related  to  other 
video  installations — by  Mary  Lucier,  Beryl  Korot,  and 
Shigeko  Kubota — that  have  attempted  to  capture  images 
of  the  landscape  and  deploy  them  in  sculptural  forms.  In 
all  these  works,  the  video  monitor  is  in  some  way  dis- 
guised or  housed  so  that  the  glowing  video  image  be- 
comes divorced  from  its  source,  appearing  only  in  the 
context  of  the  surrounding  environment. 

With  The  Allure  of  the  Concentric,  Rita  Myers  has  placed 
the  video  image  within  a  contemplative  setting  that  fuses 
the  imaginary  with  the  real — the  stylized  architectural 
forms  and  rocks  with  the  water  in  the  pool,  the  trees,  and 
the  landscape  imagery.  In  this  interplay,  Myers  evokes 
what  she  has  characterized  as  "the  ways  in  which  ancient 
archetypes  survive  as  the  foundation  for  current  images  of 
reality." 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  unfolding  through  time  of  all  things  from  one  is  the  simple 

message,  finally,  of  creation  myths.  ...         ,         ,    _         ,    „ 

— Joseph  Campbell 

The  Way  of  the  Animal  Powers 

I  cried  because  my  eyes  had  seen  that  conjectural  and  secret  object 
whose  name  men  usurp  but  which  no  man  has  gazed  on:  the 
inconceivable  universe.  —Jorge  Luis  Borges 

The  Aleph 

The  Allure  of  the  Concentricis  an  expression  of  the  mythic 
desire  for  ultimate  renewal  and  regeneration.  It  is  sus- 
tained by  a  common  childhood  memory.  A  still  pond  in  the 
heat  of  summer  gives  the  illusion  of  infinite  depth.  Its 
surface  reflects  a  canopy  of  trees  and  the  sky  above.  A 
pebble  hurled  into  its  center  creates  a  wave  of  concentric 
circles  and  with  it  a  suspension  of  clarity  which  invites 
reverie.  The  inverted  world  is  reduced  to  shuddering  ab- 
straction. Within  the  time  it  takes  for  the  clear  dome  of  the 
sky  to  reassemble  itself,  imagination  travels  great  dis- 
tances, conjuring  the  abstract  shapes  into  bits  of  fiction,  a 
tremendous  canyon,  an  oasis,  a  rose  garden.  An  inchoate 
map,  and  yet  one  which  uniquely  satisfies  a  compelling 
need — to  fill  precisely  the  empty  spaces  between  decay- 
ing circles. 

Using  the  decaying  concentricities  of  water  as  its  cen- 
tral paradigm,  The  Allure  of  the  Concentric  is  structured  as 
a  fantastic  courtyard,  fusing  architectural  and  natural  ele- 
ments in  a  circular  narrative  which  is  at  once  visual  and 


The  Allure  of  the  Concentric,  1985 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and < 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


spatial.  It  seeks  to  evoke  the  conjectural  reality  of  both 
poet  and  scientist,  ancient  and  modern  personae  who 
revive  the  mythic  adventure  as  a  search  for  origins.  This 
search,  whether  articulated  as  the  dream  of  an  image 
which  dreams  all  other  images,  or  as  a  law  which  reduces 
the  known  universe  to  a  singularity,  is  an  enterprise  des- 
tined to  become,  regrettably  but  fittingly,  only  an  approx- 
imation. 

Through  the  operation  of  disparate  metaphors,  The  Al- 
lure of  the  Concentric  is  a  reminder  of  how  the  enduring 
legacy  of  the  mythic  mind  makes  its  presence  felt,  within 
the  recurrent  motifs,  among  others,  of  a  dead  tree,  a  tower, 
or  simply  a  fragment  of  rock;  through  the  cyclical  patterns 
of  the  individual  and  collective  imagination;  and  lastly,  by 
the  continuing  need  to  flee  our  own  mortality 

Rita  Myers 


Installation  Drawings,"  1981  (traveled);  The  New  Museum,  New  York, 
'Alternatives  in  Retrospect,"  1981;  The  University  of  New  Mexico, 
Albuquerque,  "Video  as  Attitude,"  1983;  Islip  Art  Museum,  East  Islip 
New  York,  "Preparation  and  Proposition,"  1984;  The  Museum  of  Modem 
Art,  New  York,  "Video  and  Ritual,"  1984;  Alternative  Museum,  New 
York,  "Alternating  Currents,"  1985;  Museum  Modemer  Kunst,  Vienna, 
"Kunst  mit  Eigen-Sinn,"  1985. 

Videotapes 

All  videotapes  are  3/4  inch,  with  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Jumps,  1974.  1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  10  minutes. 

Sleep  Performance  and  Second  Thoughts,  1974.  1/2  inch,  color;  30 

minutes. 
Slow  Squeeze,  1974.  1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  10  minutes. 
Sweeps,  1974.  1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  10  minutes. 
Tilt,  1974.  1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  10  minutes. 
The  Points  of  a  Star. 

Chapter  1.  Separations,  1978.  Color;  45  minutes. 

Chapter  2.  Desires,  1979.  Color;  30  minutes. 

Chapter  3.  Our  Living  Dreams,  1982.  Color;  30  minutes. 
In  the  Planet  of  the  Eye,  1984.  Color;  5  minutes. 


I 


Credits: 

Constructions;  Bruce  and  Bruce  Scenery.  Technical  consultant;  Tobey 
Scott.  Photography;  Mary  Lucier,  Rita  Myers.  Post-production:  Matrix 
Video,  courtesy  of  the  Standby  Video  Editing  Program.  CMX  editor: 
Rick  Feist.  Audio  synthesizers  and  audio  engineering:  Dana  McCurdy. 
Production  assistants :  Sergei  Franklin,  Marina  Zurkow 

Funding  for  this  project  has  been  generously  provided  by  the  New  York 
State  Council  on  the  Arts,  Media  Program;  the  National  Endowment 
for  the  Arts,  Inter-Arts  Program;  the  Jerome  Foundation;  and  the 
Artist-in-Residence  Program,  PASS. 

Black  slate  FORMICA11  brand  laminate  courtesy  of  Formica  Corporation. 

With  special  thanks  to  Mary  Lucier,  Tobey  Scott,  Kay  Hines,  Jerry  Pallor 
of  Locus  Communications,  and  Chns  Montague  of  the  Sun  Valley 
Center  for  the  Arts  and  Humanities. 

Biography 

Since  1977,  Rita  Myers  has  been  combining  video  images  and  sculptural 
forms  in  complex  spatial  configurations  which  act  as  metaphors  for  sacred 
states  of  being.  Born  in  1947  in  Hammonton,  New  Jersey,  she  graduated 
with  honors  from  Douglass  College,  Rutgers  University,  in  1969,  and 
received  her  MA.  in  1974  from  Hunter  College,  City  University  of  New 
York,  where  she  studied  with  Robert  Morns  and  Linda  Nochlin.  Myers  was 
awarded  fellowships  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  in  1976 
and  1980,  and  from  the  Creative  Artists  Public  Service  program  in  New 
York  in  1976  and  1981.  In  1983  she  received  a  production  grant  from  the 
Media  Arts  Program  of  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  in  1 984 
she  received  grants  from  the  Jerome  Foundation  and  from  the  Inter- Arts 
Program  of  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts.  Myers  has  taught  at 
Douglass  College,  the  University  of  California  at  Irvine,  the  University  of 
Hartford  Art  School,  and  Montclair  State  College.  She  is  a  member  of  the 
Parabola  Arts  Foundation  and  serves  on  the  Pro  Tern  Board  of  Directors  of 
the  Production  Facility  Project  in  New  York. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

The  Kitchen,  New  York,  1976;  University  of  Colorado,  Boulder,  1976;  The 
Kitchen,  New  York,  1977;  Umversity  of  Massachusetts,  Amherst,  1978; 
Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1980,  The  Kitchen,  New 
York,  1981;  Anthology  Film  Archives,  New  York,  1982;  Media  Study,  Buf- 
falo, 1983;  Real  Art  Ways,  Hartford,  1983;  Anderson  Gallery,  Virginia 
Commonwealth  University  Richmond,  1985. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  "Everson  Video  Revue," 
1979  (traveled) ;  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  "1979 
Biennial  Exhibition";  The  Bronx  Museum  of  the  Arts,  New  York,  "Video 
Classics,"  1981;  Elise  Meyer  Gallery,  New  York,  "Schemes:  A  Decade  of 


Selected  Installations 

DUMBDADEADDADUMB,  1975.  Two-channel,  black  and  white,  sound; 
30  minutes. 

INVESTIGATION/OBSERVATIONS.  "We  are  alone  here."  1975.  Single- 
channel,  black  and  white,  sound;  30  minutes. 

Forward,  1976.  Two-channel,  black  and  white,  sound;  30  minutes. 

Once  Before  You,  1976.  Two-channel,  black  and  white  and  color,  sound; 
20  minutes. 

Barricade  to  Blue,  1977.  Three-channel,  color,  sound;  30  minutes. 

Dancing  in  the  Land  Where  Children  Are  the  Light,  1981.  Three-channel, 
color,  sound;  35  minutes. 

The  Eye  of  the  Beast  Is  Red,  1983.  Four-channel,  color,  sound;  10 
minutes. 

The  Forms  That  Begin  at  the  Outer  Rim,  1983.  Two-channel,  color, 
sound;  10  minutes. 

Gate,  1984.  Single-channel,  color,  sound;  3  minutes. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Bear,  Liza.  "Rita  Myers:  A  Remote  Intimacy,"  Avalanche,  12  (Winter 

1975),  pp.  24-27. 
Lippard,  Lucy  R.  From  The  Center:  Feminist  Essays  on  Women's  Art. 

New  York:  E.  P  Dutton,  1976,  pp.  20  n.  2,  54,  130. 
Myers,  Rita.  "DUMBDADEADDADUMB  and  INVESTIGA- 
TION/OBSERVATIONS," Gnome  Baker  I,  October  1976,  pp.  15-40. 
Potter,  Jessica.  "Review:  The  Forms  That  Begin  at  the  Outer  Rim,"  Art  in 

New  England,  4  (February  1983),  p.  7. 
Rice,  Shelley.  "Reviews:  Dancing  in  the  Land  Where  Children  Are  the 

Light,"  Artforum,  19  (May  1981),  pp.  77-78. 
.  "Mythic  Space:  The  Video  Installations  of  Rita  Myers," 

Afterimage,  9  (January  1982),  pp.  8-11. 
Schemes:  A  Decade  of  Installation  Drawings.  Catalogue  essay  by  Shelley 

Rice.  New  York:  Elise  Meyer  Inc.,  unpaginated. 
Wooster,  Ann-Sargent.  "Timeless  Floating  a  Rapture,"  Soho  Weekly 

News,  May  5,  1977,  p.  35. 
.  "Biennial  Video  at  the  Whitney,"  New  York  Arts  Journal,  14 

(April  1979),  pp.  30-32. 
.  "Manhattan  Shortcuts:  "Video  and  Ritual,"  Afterimage,  12 


(February  1985),  p.  19. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  <    1985  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   25 
#    The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Deborah  Whitman 


November  13-December  15, 1985 


Film  sculptures.  On  view  continuously 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday  November  21,  at  2:00. 
Deborah  Whitman  will  be  present. 


A  Cloud  Is  on  Top  of  the  Box  of  Doors,  1982  Wood,  paper, 
color  Super-8  film,  film  projector,  two  audiotapes;  5  minutes. 
96  x  144  x  24  inches. 

A  Staircase  with  a  Tree  at  the  End,  1983.  Wood,  color  Super-8 
him,  film  projector,  audiotape,  5  minutes.  108  x  120  x  48  inches. 

The  Upper  Room,  1984   Wood,  paper,  black-and-white  Super-8 
him,  film  projector,  audiotape;  2  minutes.  96  *  108  x  72  inches. 


The  experience  of  filmgoing  is  grounded  in  the  convention 
whereby  the  audience  is  seated  in  a  darkened  theater 
while  the  moving  image  is  projected  onto  a  large  screen. 
The  apparatuses  of  cinematic  production  and  projection 
are  hidden  from  view  and  seldom  acknowledged  within 
the  work  itself.  Deborah  Whitman's  film  sculptures  trans- 
form the  viewing  experience  by  refashioning  cinematic 
materials  and  changing  the  basis  of  film  projection  and 
viewing. 

Whitman's  sculptures,  including  A  Cloud  Is  on  Top  of 
the  Box  of  Doors  and  A  Staircase  with  a  Tree  at  the  End, 
function  like  fantastic  cinematic  machines  in  which  ani- 
mated people  and  shapes  alternately  appear  and  disap- 
pear in  filmic  and  sculptural  space.  In  The  Upper  Room,  we 
look  through  a  door-like  opening  to  see  a  film  of  birds  and 


A  Staircase  with  a  Tree  at  the  End,  1983 


A  Cloud  Is  on  Top  of  the  Box  of  Doors,  1982.  Installation 
at  PS  1,  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban  Resources,  Long  Island 
City  New  York.  Photograph  by  James  Dee. 


trees.  In  this  ambiguous  dreamlike  scenario,  we  struggle 
to  intercept  its  signs  and  images. 

Combining  the  cinematic  illusionism  of  the  French  nine- 
teenth-century filmmaker  Georges  Melies  with  the  decep- 
tive simplicity  of  modernism,  Whitman  avoids  simple  met- 
aphor and  creates  a  tension  between  narrative  and  time. 
The  continuously  running  film  loops  endlessly  repeat  their 
impressionistic  narratives  within  structures  that  evoke 
the  stark  outlines  of  imaginary  buildings  and  fragments  of 
landscapes. 

Whitman's  work  can  be  seen  in  the  context  of  earlier 
film  projects.  The  placement  of  the  projector  within  gal- 
lery and  performance  spaces  was  a  strategy  employed  in 
the  1960s  by  Robert  Whitman,  for  example,  in  Happenings 
and  Stan  VanDerBeek  in  multimedia  installations.  In  re- 
cent years,  artists  have  used  film  in  a  variety  of  formats, 
ranging  from  the  multiple  projector  pieces  of  Paul  Sharits 
to  Bill  Lundberg's  examination  of  the  illusionistic  proper- 
ties of  the  representational  image.  In  all  these  works  film  is 
treated  as  a  plastic  and  flexible  medium  in  which  sound 
and  image  can  articulate  a  range  of  meaning  and  signifi- 
cance. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  with  a  grant 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Deborah  Whitman  has  created  a  body  of  work  that  uses 
the  projection  process  as  an  integral  part  of  her  sculptures. 
Both  form  and  image  are  interrelated  as  the  films'  fragmen- 
tary narratives  are  framed  by  the  sculptural  motifs.  The 
whole  is  at  once  a  compelling  and  engaging  visual,  cine- 
matic experience. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


With  my  sculptures  I  try  to  create  a  setting  which  contains 
a  theme  before  a  plot  even  happens  and  activates  a  plot 
when  the  characters  enter.  I  build  structures  out  of  lumber 
and  loop  film  through  them.  The  film  projects  onto  screens 
within  the  structure.  Seen  from  a  distance,  the  sculpture, 
by  its  shape,  is  a  synopsis  of  its  theme.  It  intimates  ges- 
tures members  of  the  audience  would  make  in  order  to  see 
the  film,  such  as  opening  doors,  or  sitting  down  to  view 
the  film  image.  On  coming  closer,  the  audience  interacts 
with  the  sculpture,  either  physically  or  in  their  minds,  and 
their  gestures  accumulate  into  a  plot.  They  walk  around 
the  sculpture,  opening  and  closing  the  doors,  or  imagine 
walking  up  the  stairs.  They  then  become  characters. 

A  Cloud  Is  on  Top  of  the  Box  of  Doors 
The  film  loops  up  over  the  structure  and  projects  through 
three  translucent  screens  encased  within  a  box,  making 
two  rooms  inside.  The  film  format  is  divided  into  three 
parts,  so  that  specific  images  are  projected  onto  the  appro- 
priate screen.  The  inside  screens  are  accessible  to  view  by 
four  sliding  doors,  two  on  each  side  of  the  box.  From  the 
front,  all  three  screens  fit  together  in  three-dimensional 
perspective,  but  as  the  viewer  walks  around  the  sculpture 
and  looks  into  the  rooms,  the  screens  separate.  The  shape 
of  each  screen  symbolizes  a  part  of  the  process  of  making 
a  decision.  The  center  screen  is  a  window  frame — a  con- 
stant, as  in  a  window:  the  scene  changes  behind  it  but  the 
window  remains  the  same.  The  first  screen  has  the  win- 
dow cut  out  of  it,  so  the  viewer  has  to  deliberate,  to  look 
from  one  side  of  the  gap  to  the  other  to  see  the  image.  The 
third  screen  is  what  is  caught  in  the  frame  and  decided 
upon.  Ideally,  the  sculpture  should  be  seen  in  the  sky,  with 
a  person  walking  around  and  around  it,  going  from  one 
room  to  the  other,  symbolizing  a  circuit  from  deliberation 
to  decision  to  culmination,  into  the  clouds. 

A  Staircase  with  a  7>ee  at  the  End 

In  this  film  sculpture  there  is  a  staircase  with  a  tree  at  the 
end  and  a  chair  beneath  the  stairs.  A  film  projector  is  at 
the  base  of  the  stairs,  with  a  film  loop  running  up  through 
the  tree.  The  film  projects  onto  a  screen  near  the  base  of 
the  tree.  The  sculpture  is  about  two  opposite  attitudes: 
one  involving  sitting  and  thinking,  the  other  walking  and 
acting  on  thoughts.  On  the  film  are  images  of  doors  open- 
ing down  a  hall.  The  rooms  behind  the  doors  are  either 
empty  or  full  of  images.  The  film  loops  the  thoughts 
through  the  tree.  The  two  attitudes  happen  at  the  same 
time,  creating  a  paradox  about  the  distance  of  dreams  and 
the  actualizing  of  beauty. 


The  Upper  Room 

This  sculpture  contains  an  entrance  with  a  ladder  and  a 
box  suspended  on  a  pole.  The  box  has  a  door  on  the  front 
which  can  be  opened  and  closed.  The  film  projects  into  the 
box.  On  the  film  is  a  dream  sequence  in  black  and  white. 
The  small  box  with  the  door  represents  an  upper  room,  a 
place  in  the  mind,  and  the  entrance  with  the  ladder  repre- 
sents a  gradual  climb  to  the  narrow  access  of  the  room  and 
the  point  where  thought  separates  from  the  body.  The  film 
repeats  a  cycle  of  animated  images  from  earth  to  sky:  dog, 
tree,  ladder,  bird,  place. 

Deborah  Whitman 


Biography 

Deborah  Whitman  was  born  in  1953  in  Leesburg.  Virginia.  She  studied 
studio  art,  art  history,  theater,  and  fiction  wnting  at  the  University  of 
Virginia,  Charlottesville,  where  she  received  her  B.A  in  1975  Whitman 
went  on  to  Rutgers  University  New  Brunswick,  New  Jersey,  receiving  her 
M.FA.  in  1978,  and  then  taught  sculpture,  drawing,  and  two-dimensional 
design  there  Whitman,  who  lives  in  New  York,  has  been  incorporating  film 
with  sculpture  since  1977,  and  has  worked  as  a  commercial  artist  since 
1978. 

One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Franklin  Furnace,  New  York,  1981:  PS.  1.  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban 
Resources,  Long  Island  City  New  York,  1982;  John  Gibson  Gallery,  New 
York,  1984. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Franklin  Furnace,  New  York,  "Four  at  the  Furnace,"  1977;  The  New  Mu- 
seum, New  York,  "Events,"  1981,  The  Clocktower,  New  York,  "Film  as 
Installation  0,"  1983;  The  Kitchen,  New  York,  "Negative  Utopia."  1983:  The 
Clocktower,  New  York,  "PS  1  Studio  Artists,"  198<* ;  Makkom.  Amsterdam, 
"Caidoz  in  Makkom,"  1984 

Sculptures  with  Film  or  Video 

When  people  act  you  have  a  performance.  When  materials  act  you  have  a 
machine,  When  nature  acts  you  have  a  phenomenon,  1976  Wood,  can- 
vas, single-channel  videotape,  audiotape. 

The  Ear  Is  the  Eye's  Genius,  1977  Wood,  paper,  two  color  Super-8  film 
loops,  three  audiotapes 

Who's  Arena',  1977  Wood,  canvas,  single-channel  videotape,  audiotape 

The  Definitive's  Shadow,  1980  Wood,  paper,  color  Super-8  film  loop,  two 
audiotapes. 

Motorized  Mask,  1981  Wood,  pinch  roller,  motor,  black-and-white  Super-8 
film  loop 

When  the  Symbols  Turn  the  Action,  1981.  Wood,  paper,  black-and-white 
Super-8  film  loop,  audiotape 

Installation  with  Revolving  Light,  1983  Wood,  revolving  light,  color  Super-8 
film  loop 

Motorized  Hat,  1983  Wood,  gears,  belts,  handle,  black-and-white  Super-8 
film  loop. 

Theatre  with  Figures,  1983  Wood,  black  and  white  Super-8  film  loop 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  Yoik,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wrdnesday-Satuiday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


1  .'-ipyii'ihi    '    I')!!1,  by  I  lie  Whitney  M  u  . .  ■ .  i  r  r  ■  ol  A  in. -in  .in  AM 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   26 
^    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


The  L.A.  Rebellion:  A  Tlirning  Point  in  Black  Cinema 


January  3-19,  1986 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  January  16,  after  the  12:00 
screening.  Clyde  Taylor  will  be  present. 


By  the  turn  of  the  next  century,  film  historians  will  recog- 
nize that  a  decisive  turning  point  in  the  development  of 
black  cinema  took  place  at  UCLA  in  the  early  1970s.  By 
then,  persuasive  definitions  of  black  cinema  will  revolve 
around  images  encoded  not  by  Hollywood,  but  within  the 
self-understanding  of  the  African- American  population. 

The  latest  black  independent  film  movement  (roughly 
from  1964  to  the  present)  represents  the  most  concerted 
effort  to  establish  black  cinema  and  to  distinguish  it  from 
"images  of  blacks  in  films."  Among  the  independents 
determined  to  make  films  outside  the  Hollywood  orbit, 
two  episodes  of  creative  collaboration  stand  out.  Both 
reveal  all  the  marks  of  cultural  movements — the  efforts  to 
establish  definitions,  the  drafting  of  manifestos,  the  ex- 
cited exchange  of  ideas  and  techniques,  the  revisionist 
review  of  historical  legacies,  and  the  self-conscious 
awareness  of  being  players  on  a  new  historical  stage. 

One  of  these  episodes  was  the  activity  around  Black 
Journal,  a  PBS  television  magazine  program  regularly  pro- 
duced by  a  team  of  black  directors  under  the  leadership  of 
William  Greaves  from  1968  to  1971.  There,  the  contours  of 
black  documentary,  aimed  at  exploring  the  self-defmition 
of  African- Americans,  were  effectively  laid  out.  But  even 
these  revisionist  documentarians  understood  the  vital 
role  of  dramatic  narrative  for  the  full  expression  of  black 
cinematic  possibilities. 

Narrative  films  were  also  the  focus  of  a  second  group  of 
talented,  resourceful  cinema  interventionists  who  came 
together  as  students  in  the  1970s  at  UCLA.  Energized  by 
the  momentum  of  the  Black  Power  movement,  the  growth 
of  Pan- African  and  cultural-nationalist  organizing  in  post- 
Watts  rebellion  Los  Angeles,  and  the  dozens  of  cultural, 
artistic,  and  educational  ventures  of  the  second  Black 
Reconstruction,  these  young  filmmakers  made  a  commit- 
ment to  dramatic  films — a  commitment  fired  by  the  dis- 
comfort of  dwelling  in  the  belly  of  the  beast :  minutes  away, 
Hollywood  was  reviving  itself  economically  through  a  glut 
of  mercenary  black  exploitation  movies. 

At  Thursday-night  screenings,  the  UCLA  group  re- 
capitulated the  history  of  cinema  and  its  bearings  on  black 
populations.  They  debated  aesthetic  questions  in  and  out 
of  classes.  It  was  here  that  Teshome  Gabriel,  a  noted  film 
scholar,  began  his  resolute  inquiries  into  Third  World  cin- 
ema theory.  Haile  Genma,  Larry  Clark,  Charles  Burnett, 
Pamela  Jones,  Ben  Caldwell,  Majied  Mahdi,  and  John  Rier 


all  crewed  for  one  another's  directorial  efforts,  throwing  in 
ideas  and  opinions.  Aware  that  the  moment  was  pro- 
pitious, they  deliberately  overreached  the  category  of  stu- 
dent films,  aiming  toward  finished  products  that,  within 
limited  means,  could  go  into  independent  distribution. 

From  Child  of  Resistance  (1972)  on,  each  of  the  films 
presented  here  had  the  shock  value  of  a  new  departure, 
creating  a  sense  of  tradition  that  persists  to  the  present. 
The  Los  Angeles  Rebellion  is  recognizable  in  a  determina- 
tion to  expose  the  irresponsibility  of  Hollywood  portrayals 
of  black  people  by  developing  a  film  language  whose  bold, 
even  extravagant,  innovation  sought  filmic  equivalents  of 
black  social  and  cultural  discourse.  Every  code  of  classical 
cinema  was  rudely  smashed — conventions  of  editing, 
framing,  storytelling,  time,  and  space.  As  a  body  of  work  it 
is  explicitly  more  realistic  and/ or  more  theatrical  than  the 
films  coming  out  of  the  major  studios.  Sound  tracks  carry 
needling  surprises.  Characters  speak  easily  of  things 
never  heard  in  popcorn  movies.  To  this  day,  among  the 
films  of  the  black  independent  movement,  those  coming 
out  of  the  Los  Angeles  Rebellion  stand  out  for  the  as- 
surance with  which  they  say  "black  cinema  spoken  here! " 

Child  of  Resistance  can  be  taken  as  a  manifesto  film. 
Inspired  by  a  dream  about  Angela  Davis  (also  formerly  of 
UCLA)  in  prison,  it  assaults  the  conventions  of  classical 
film  construction  with  the  violence  Fanon  described  as  the 
complement  of  mental  liberation.  Traditional  codes  of  time 
and  space  are  drastically  reordered  in  the  mental  flashes 
of  an  archetypal  political  woman  prisoner  within  the  psy- 
chosocial contradictions  that  frame  her  incarceration.  Im- 
ages clash  in  paradoxical  juxtapositions ,  suggestive  of  the 
theater  of  the  absurd,  but  probing  resolution  through  the 
violence  of  revolution.  No  less  instrumental  to  its  declara- 
tion of  independence,  an  off-camera  voice,  that  of  the 
protagonist,  reaches  directly  to  a  black  audience  (as  does 
the  protagonist  herself  in  one  scene),  discarding  the  illu- 
sion of  an  "objective"  point  of  view  through  which  domi- 
nant cinema  reaches  to  an  implicitly  white  spectatorship. 

The  innovations  of  Ben  Caldwell's  /  and  I:  An  African 
Allegory  (1977)  build  on  a  non-linear  narrative  structure  in 
which  three  episodes  are  linked  by  a  mythic  figure  repre- 
senting the  African  spirit  venturing  in  America.  The  cli- 
mactic shock  of  one  episode  springs  from  the  absurdist 
juxtapositions  and  turnabouts  of  black  theater  in  the  six- 
ties. In  another,  the  shock  comes  when  a  documentary 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  with  a  grant 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


interview  is  extended,  almost  parodistically,  into  surreal 
horror.  Through  dispositions  of  symbol  and  image,  Cald- 
well, as  in  much  recent  creative  black  writing,  evokes 
Africa  obliquely,  as  an  almost  hallucinatory  memory,  a 
reference  point  for  the  transformation  of  values. 

Like  many  Third  World  films,  Haile  Gerima's  Bush 
Mama  (1976)  repudiates  the  socio-economic  system,  its 
attritions  of  its  weaker  victims  through  racism,  class  dis- 
crimination, and  inhumane  social  policies,  brutally  admin- 
istered. The  burden  falls  on  Dorothy,  a  welfare  mother,  to 
find  a  whole,  safe  life  under  these  obstacles.  Through  the 
open  questioning  of  her  daughter  she  discovers  an  un- 
sanctioned solution.  Bush  Mama  elaborates  themes  and 
images  from  Genma's  earlier  Child  of  Resistance. 

Larry  Clark's  Passing  Through  (1977)  attempts  to  sub- 
vert the  Hollywood  action  genre,  riffing  its  search,  con- 
frontation, chase,  and  vengeance  formulas  with  unruly 
notes  from  the  underground.  Womack's  search  for  Papa, 
the  master  musician,  is  simultaneously  a  quest  for  the 
liberation  of  black  music.  Clark's  deliberate,  highly  coded 
cinematography  reflects  the  most  ambitious  effort  to 
structure  a  film  according  to  the  rhythms  and  movement 
patterns  of  that  music  tradition.  Because  of  its  success  in 
this  visual  orchestration  and  its  fidelity  to  the  life  and  the 
scene,  it  is  possibly  the  best  fictional  jazz  film  made  so  far. 

Perhaps  the  best-known  feature  film  from  the  L.A. 
movement,  Charles  Burnett's  Killer  of  Sheep  (1977),  inau- 
gurates another  direction  in  black  cinema,  the  search  for  a 
more  sensitive,  patient  realism.  The  quest  of  Burnett's 
protagonist,  a  worker  in  a  slaughterhouse,  is  for  peace 
amid  the  malaise,  incoherence,  and  futility  of  his  South- 
Central  L.A.  neighborhood;  peace  from  the  fearful  dreams 
he  has  of  his  children's  lives.  Obviously  influenced  by 
Italian  neorealism,  Burnett's  narrative  is  striking  for  its 
perceptions  of  the  unpretty,  tragicomic  poetry  of  everyday 
life  among  the  oppressed. 

The  black  women  directors  who  emerged  at  UCLA  in 
the  late  1970s  extended  the  aesthetic  tendencies  of  the 
movement,  grounding  perceptions  of  black  culture  in  Af- 
rican sources,  exploring  vehicles  of  symbol,  icon,  and  rit- 
ual beyond  normative  practice,  and  explicating  concerns 
for  social  justice.  Their  particular  contribution  came  in 
presenting  self-defining  black  women  on  the  screen,  an 
effort  that  represents  a  more  drastic  departure  in  cinema 
history  than  comparable  portraits  of  black  male  figures. 
What  is  remarkable  and  remarkably  fresh  about  the  films 
of  Julie  Dash,  Alile  Sharon  Larkin,  and  Barbara  Mc- 
Cullough  is  their  portrayal  for  nearly  the  first  time  of  black 
women  with  an  existence  for  themselves. 

In  their  different  ways,  Dash's  Four  Women  (1978)  and 
McCullough's  Water  Ritual  #1:  An  Urban  Rite  of  Purifica- 
tion (1980)  honor  the  interior  complexity  of  black  women,  a 
dimension  virtually  denied  in  American  cultural  expres- 
sion. In  both  cases,  this  interiority  is  all  the  more  focused 
by  the  absence  of  narrative  and  dialogue.  Based  on  the 
Nina  Simone  composition,  Four  Women  authenticates  the 
varieties  of  experience  and  personalities  among  black 
women  through  dispositions  of  color,  movement,  and  mu- 
sic in  a  way  that  bears  interesting  formal  parallels  to 
Ntozake  Shange's  play  For  Colored  Girls.  .  .  .  Water  Ritual 
#1,  through  visual  incantation,  alludes  to  the  vital  sources 


of  cultural  survival  and  identity  among  African- American 
women  in  African  and  Third  World  orientations  toward 
nature,  man-made  environments,  magic,  and  art. 
Grounded  in  the  concrete,  it  is  nevertheless  provocatively 
metaphysical. 

Alile  Sharon  Larkin's  A  Different  Image  (1982)  deploys 
narrative  and  dialogue  to  pose  a  retort  to  the  obliteration 
or  malformation  of  black  women  in  Western  art  and  popu- 
lar culture.  Her  young  protagonist's  refusal  to  be  bounded 
by  the  erotic  depersonalizations  of  black  men  and  the 
sexist-racist  codes  of  the  American  media  is  at  once  quix- 
otic, Utopian,  and  heroic. 

Julie  Dash's  Illusions  (1982)  breaks  new  ground  in  the 
aesthetic  deliberations  centered  at  UCLA.  Like  Passing 
Through,  it  uses  Hollywood  codes  in  order  to  subvert 
them  with  counter-normative  statements.  Further,  it  tri- 
umphs in  attention  to  parodic  detail,  introducing  sur- 
charges of  wit,  irony,  and  reflection  on  history,  both 
cinematic  and  national.  Set  in  a  Hollywood  studio  during 
World  War  II,  Illusions  maneuvers  the  devices  and  my- 
thologies of  the  studio  system  against  itself  as  these  col- 
lide with  the  incomprehensible  presence  of  creative  black 
women.  Its  rather  abrupt  ending  is  explained  by  the  fact 
that  it  was  intended  as  a  four-part  film,  possibly  based  on 
Dash's  earlier  Four  Women.  It  is  nevertheless,  in  its  multi- 
reflexive  examination  of  appearance  and  reality  in  Amer- 
ican society,  one  of  the  most  brilliant  achievements  of  style 
and  concept  in  recent  American  filmmaking. 

The  films  in  this  exhibition  form  the  core  of  a  declaration 
of  independence,  but  they  are  by  no  means  its  only  man- 
ifestation. The  ethos  that  arose  in  Los  Angeles  extends  to 
other  films  by  black  UCLA  students  and  to  diverse  efforts 
to  build  a  black  cinema  culture.  It  extends  from  formal  and 
informal  education,  the  formation  of  distribution  channels, 
and  the  mounting  of  exhibitions,  to  assistance  in  Third 
World  film  production/ distribution  enterprises.  Its  tradi- 
tions are  alive  and  well,  as  seen  in  the  work  of  new  direc- 
tors, such  as  Monona  Wali's  Grey  Area  (1981)  and  Billy 
Woodberry's  respected  feature  Bless  Their  Little  Hearts 
(1984),  scripted  by  Charles  Burnett.  The  progress  and  evo- 
lution in  the  first  contingent  of  the  L.A.  movement  can  be 
seen  in  Haile  Gerima's  continued  output,  Harvest:  3,000 
Years  (1976),  Wilmington  10-USA  Tkn  Thousand  (1978), 
Ashes  and  Embers  (1982),  and  After  Winter:  Sterling  Brown 
(1985);  in  Charles  Burnett's  My  Brothers  Wedding  (1983); 
and  in  Ben  Caldwell's  experimental  video  work  Babylon  Is 
Falling  (1983)  and  the  multimedia  production  United  States 
of  Emergency  (1985).  As  black  independent  film  work  is 
given  closer  scrutiny,  the  L.A.  movement  will  be  recog- 
nized as  an  indispensable  part  of  its  development. 

Clyde  Taylor 
Guest  Curator 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  <    1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   27 
*r    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


H< 


i  Fried 


February  14-March  16,  1986 


The  Museum  Reaction  Piece,  1978-86 
Video  installation.  On  view  continuously 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday  February  18,  at  2:00 
Howard  Fried  will  be  present. 


Components 

Painted  sheetrock  structure,  lights,  fans,  vents,  two  stoves,  two  tables, 
four  chairs,  two  10-inch  televisions,  electrical  outlets  and  switchplates, 
text,  two  monitors,  single-channel  videotape,  color,  sound. 

Credits 

Richard  Simmons,  Camille  Rykowski,  Anne  Leverton,  Ronald  Kukta, 
Marina  Lary  Jim  Harithas,  Mariana  Timmons,  Peter  Jones,  Kathy 
Restucio,  Miscael  Pommier,  Peg  Weiss,  Gussie  Will  Alex,  Susanne  Foley, 
Mary  Ann  Callo,  Leslie  Gorman,  Carole  Burke,  Jill  Bell,  Lmda  Simmons, 
Robert  Paris,  Eugenie  Candau,  Elise  Goldstein,  Margaret  Foster,  Tyrone 
Ellsworth  Jefferson,  Laura  Rosenthal,  Phil  Berkman,  Dean  Decent. 

Howard  Fried's  work  can  be  seen  in  the  context  of  the 
Conceptual  and  Minimalist  performance  projects  of  Bruce 
Nauman,  Vito  Acconci,  Joan  Jonas,  and  Peter  Campus,  all 
of  which  employed  the  portable  video  camera  to  express 
attitudes  about  the  body  and  the  actions  of  the  artist. 
During  the  past  fifteen  years  Fried,  a  San  Francisco-based 
artist,  has  been  particularly  influential  in  the  development 
of  performance  and  video  in  California.  His  art  is  dis- 
tinguished by  an  interest  in  the  rules  and  conventions 
governing  our  daily  lives.  Through  his  work  in  perfor- 
mance, film,  and  video,  Fried  creates  metaphors  for  the 
ways  in  which  cognitive  and  perceptual  processes  are 
framed  by  social  institutions  such  as  schools,  museums, 
and  sports.  The  result  is  an  incisive  and  often  witty  look  at 
the  psychology  of  the  self  within  artistic  practice  and  the 
viewer's  reception  of  the  work. 

In  the  film  The  Burghers  of  Fort  Worth  (1975),  Fried  is 
seen  on  camera  as  he  is  being  taught,  by  a  golf  pro  at  a  Fort 
Worth  country  club,  how  to  swing  the  club  and  drive  the 
ball.  The  camera  is  attached  to  a  structure  suspended 
from  a  tree,  which  swings  back  and  forth  in  imitation  of 
the  golfer's  swing.  The  sound  track  consists  of  the  golf 
pro's  verbal  instructions  and  his  dialogue  with  Fried. 
Throughout  this  teaching  process,  the  moving  camera 
catches  and  loses  the  action.  The  interaction  of  Fried's 
swings  and  the  camera's  repeating  arcs  creates  both  frus- 
tration and  expectation  for  the  viewer  as  well  as  for  Fried 
in  his  role  as  a  neophyte  golfer. 

In  the  videotape  Vito's  Reef  (1978),  Fried  himself  as- 
sumes the  place  of  the  pedagogue,  as  we  observe  him 
standing  at  a  blackboard  explaining,  in  an  abstruse  man- 
ner, physical  and  social  phenomena  to  an  unseen  class. 
His  discourse  is  intercut  with  two  other  scenes.  In  one,  he 
stands  in  a  football  stadium  trying  to  get  a  very  frustrated 


young  woman  to  memorize  a  complicated,  tongue-in- 
cheek  dissertation  on  football  strategy.  In  another,  Fried 
and  a  young  boy  physically  spar — a  metaphor  for  the  kind 
of  power  teachers  wield  over  their  students. 

In  both  The  Burghers  of  Fort  Worth  and  Vito's  Reef,  the 
action  is  mirrored  in  the  formal  structure  of  the  work, 
either  through  the  camera's  position  and  movement  or  in 
the  editing.  In  this  way  Fried  establishes  a  formal  and 
psychological  analogy  for  the  action  taking  place  within 
the  work.  With  this  strategy,  he  seeks  to  deconstruct  the 
processes  that  shape  our  lives,  and  the  ways  in  which  they 
are  channeled  through  social  institutions. 

The  Museum  Reaction  Piece  (1978-86),  on  view  in  the 
Film  and  Video  Gallery,  uses  the  preparation  and  con- 
sumption of  food  as  a  metaphor  for  the  production  and 
reception  of  art.  It  consists  of  a  two-room  structure  rep- 
licating the  original  performance  space  in  which  the  work 
was  made.  Each  room  is  furnished  with  a  stove,  a  working 
fan  that  blows  air  into  the  adjoining  room,  and  a  table  and 
chair.  On  the  table  is  a  small  video  monitor  with  a  blank 
screen.  Outside  the  structure,  on  two  video  monitors,  a 
tape  is  played,  edited  from  the  original  performance.  The 
action  on  the  tape  occurs  in  two  kitchens,  where  different 
performers,  a  "host"  and  a  "host's  host,"  prepare  meals  at 
different  times  of  the  day.  The  cooking  is  done  by  various 
staff  members  of  the  Everson  Museum  of  Art  in  Syracuse, 
New  York,  where  this  piece  was  first  installed.  The  central 
theme  of  The  Museum  Reaction  Piece  is  the  role  of  the 
museum  as  a  conduit  for  art. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  Museum  Reaction  Piece  was  first  installed  in  1978  at 
the  Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York.  At  that 
time,  the  piece  consisted  of  its  architectural  components 
and  a  text  addressed  to  two  museum  employees — the 
"number  one"  and  "number  two"  hosts — who  each  lunch 
with  seven  staff  members  during  the  seven  days  of  the 
exhibition.  The  text  is  written  in  the  form  of  a  recipe 
explaining  in  a  general  way  how  to  conduct  each  of  four- 
teen lunches. 

The  piece  was  set  in  two  adjoining  kitchenettes  with  a 
common  wall  that  housed  two  exhaust  fans.  The  fans  and 
lights  were  wired  in  such  a  way  that  when  a  light  in  a  room 


This  exhibition  has  been  funded  in  part  by  a  generous  contribution  from  James  Wm.  Clement.  The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made 
possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  with  a  grant  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


The  Museum  Reaction  Piece,  installation  at  University  Ait  Museum, 
University  of  California,  Berkeley,  1983.  Photograph  by  Ben  Blackwell. 


was  turned  on,  the  fan  moving  air  out  of  that  room  was 
also  turned  on.  Consequently,  after  a  meal  had  taken  place 
in  one  room,  the  resulting  odors  were  transmitted  to  the 
other  room.  I  used  these  and  other  architectural  devices, 
as  well  as  two  sets  of  "TV  programs"  (The  Number  One 
Host's  Host  and  The  Number  Two  Host's  Host),  to  direct 
the  activity  to  be  taped  through  a  list  of  procedures  found 
in  the  1978  text. 

After  the  seven  episodes  were  taped,  a  regenerative 
process  began  that  continued  for  five  years.  The  tapes  of 
the  original  lunches  were  transcribed  and  used  by  the 
original  participants  to  play  themselves  while  I  reshot  the 
lunches  in  a  highly  controlled  manner.  This  process  was 
frustrated  when  several  of  the  participants  became  un- 
available. I  decided  to  replace  these  people  with  others  of 
the  same  sex  and  same  occupation,  using  the  scripts 
developed  by  the  original  participants  (i.e.,  a  director's 
female  secretary  was  replaced  by  another  director's 
female  secretary;  a  male  security  guard  was  replaced  by 
another  male  security  guard).  At  this  point,  the  production 
was  moved  from  Syracuse  to  San  Francisco  and  completed 

in  my  studio. 

Howard  Fried 

Adapted  from  Howard  Fried:  Works  from  1969  to  1983, 
exhibition  brochure  (Berkeley:  University  Art  Museum, 
University  of  California,  1983),  unpaginated. 

Biography 

Howard  Fned  was  bom  in  1946  in  Cleveland.  He  attended  Syracuse  Univer- 
sity from  1964  to  1967,  received  a  B.EA.  from  the  San  Francisco  Art  Institute 
in  1968  and  an  M.FA.  from  the  University  of  California,  Davis,  in  1970. 
Fried  was  awarded  artist's  fellowships  from  the  National  Endowment  for 
the  Arts  in  1974,  1980,  and  1983.  He  was  a  visiting  professor  at  the 
Minneapolis  College  of  Art  and  Design  in  1982  and  at  the  Massachusetts 
College  of  Art,  Boston,  in  1985,  and  has  taught  at  the  San  Francisco  Art 
Institute  since  1970.  Fned  bves  in  San  Francisco. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Reese  Palley  Gallery,  San  Francisco,  1970;  Reese  Palley  Gallery,  New  York, 
1971;  Nova  Scotia  College  of  Art  and  Design,  Halifax,  1972;  San  Francisco 
Art  Institute,  1972;  San  Francisco  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  1977;  Everson 
Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  1978,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art, 
New  York,  1979;  and/or,  Seattle,  1981;  A  Space,  Toronto,  1981;  University 


Art  Museum,  University  of  California,  Berkeley,  1982;  Artists  Space,  New 
York,  1983;  University  Art  Museum,  University  of  California,  Berkeley, 
1983;  Institute  of  Contemporary  Art,  Boston,  1985. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Kunsthalle  Diisseldorf,  West  Germany,  "Prospect  71  Projection,"  1971;  Kas- 
sel,  West  Germany,  "Documenta  5,"  1972;  Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syr- 
acuse, New  York,  "Circuit:  A  Video  Invitational,"  1973  (traveled);  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York.  "1977  Biennial  Exhibition";  The 
Museum  of  Modem  Art,  New  York,  "Performance  Video,"  1982;  Stedelijk 
Museum,  Amsterdam,  '"60-'80  Attitudes,  Concepts,  Images,"  1982; 
Media  Study/Buffalo,  "Video/TV:  Humor/Comedy"  1983  (traveled);  Walter 
Phillips  Gallery,  Banff,  Alberta,  "Social  Space,"  1984;  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art,  New  York,  "New  American  Video  Art:  A  Historical  Survey, 
1967-1980,"  1984  (traveling);  The  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  New  York, 
"Spatial  Relationships  in  Video,"  1985. 

Selected  Videotapes  and  Sculptures  with  Video  Components 

All  videotapes  are  3/4  inch,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 
The  San  Francisco  Lesson,  1969-81.  Installation,  off-air  television,  black 

and  white. 
Fuck  You  Purdue,  1971.  1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  30  minutes. 
Sea  Sell  Sea  Sick  at  -^  Sea  Soar,  1971.  Single-channel  installation, 

1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  50  minutes. 
Which  Hunt?,  1972.  1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  50  minutes. 
Indian  War  Dance,  1972-74.  1/4  inch,  black  and  white;  40  minutes. 
Seaquick,  1972-74.  1/2  inch,  black  and  white;  40  minutes. 
Intraction,  1974.  Single-channel  installation,  1/2  inch,  black  and  white; 

50  minutes. 
The  Conceptual  Minute,  1976.  1  minute. 
Vito's  Reef,  1978.  34  minutes. 
Condom,  1979-80.  35  minutes. 

Making  a  Paid  Political  Announcement,  1982.  7  minutes. 
Pattern  Maker,  1984.  Single-channel  installation. 
Atomic  Time  ±  Control,  1985.  Six-channel  installation,  closed  circuit, 

black  and  white. 
Selected  videotapes  are  distributed  by  The  Kitchen,  New  York,  and  Art 

Metropole,  Toronto. 

Selected  Films  and  Sculptures  with  Film  Components 

All  films  are  Super-8,  black  and  white,  and  silent,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

I  Shoot  My  Reading  Rate  at  5  Frames  per  Second,  1969.  15  seconds. 

Approach -Avoidance  1,  1970.  Installation;  15-minute  loop. 

Chronometric  Depth  Perception,  1970.  3  minutes. 

1970,  1970.  Installation;  28  minutes. 

Cheshire  Cat  2, 1971.  16  minutes. 

Inside  the  Harlequin  (Approach-Avoidance  2  &  3),  1971.  Dual  projection, 

color;  two  14-minute  loops. 
Sustentense,  1974.  16mm,  color,  sound;  4  minutes. 
The  Burghers  of  Forth  Worth,  1975.  16mm,  color,  sound;  30  minutes. 
The  First  Historical  Situation  (from  Pattern  Maker),  1984.  16mm,  color; 

52  minutes. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Bear,  Liza.  "Howard  Fried:  The  Cheshire  Cat,"  Avalanche,  no.  4  (Spring 
1972),  pp.  20-27. 

Fned,  Howard.  "The  Museum  Reaction  Piece,"  Poetics  Journal  No.  5: 
Non/Narrative  (May  1985),  pp.  113-19. 

.  "Synchromatic  Baseball, "Arts  Magazine,  47  (April  1973),  pp.  60-63. 

Richardson,  Brenda.  "Howard  Fried:  The  Paradox  of  Approach- 
Avoidance,"  Arts  Magazine,  45  (Summer  1971),  pp.  30-33. 

White,  Robin.  "Howard  Fried,"  View.  Oakland,  California:  Crown  Point 
Press,  1979. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


( 


Copyright  «'5  1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   28 
^    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Yvonne  Rainer 


March  25-April  10,  1986 


Gallery  Talk,  Wednesday,  April  9,  following  the 
12:00  screening.  Yvonne  Rainer  will  be  present. 


Since  the  release  of  her  first  feature-length  film,  Lives  of 
Performers,  in  1972,  Yvonne  Rainer  has  produced  one  of 
the  most  distinguished  bodies  of  work  in  contemporary 
film.  Rainer's  modernist  inquiry  into  the  conventions  and 
meaning  of  the  cinematic  discourse  involves  a  formal  ex- 
ploration of  the  interplay  between  the  real  and  the  fic- 
tional. This  theoretical  and  aesthetic  issue  is  developed 
through  the  employment  of  narrative  strategies  in  the 
construction  of  individual  scenes.  Rainer  employs  the 
script,  performances,  editing,  cinematography,  and  com- 
position in  a  complex  and  engaging  inquiry  into  the  role  of 
the  artist  in  the  modern  world. 

In  one  sense,  Rainer's  Lives  of  Performers  was  part  of  her 
celebrated  activities  in  American  dance.  In  another,  it  is 
her  translation  of  the  performative  and  of  theatrical  space 
into  film.  Rainer  represents  the  production  of  both  dance 
and  film  first  through  the  choreographer/director's  actions 
on  screen,  then  through  the  sound  track  commentary  on 
the  emotional  complexity  of  making  and  performing  art. 
The  formal  elegance  of  the  film  is  enhanced  by  Babette 
Mangolte's  cinematography. 

In  her  next  film,  Film  About  a  Woman  Who...  (1974), 
Rainer  deliberately  interplayed  cinematic  techniques — 
image,  text,  music,  and  speech — to  fashion  a  fragmented 
narrative  where  the  fictional  action  moves  between  char- 
acters located  within  imaginary  on-  and  off-screen  places. 
Because  the  action  thus  unfolds  in  different  spaces,  the 
scene  becomes  disorienting  for  the  viewer. 

In  1976  Rainer  released  Kristina  Talking  Pictures,  a  film 
where,  as  she  put  it,  "within  a  form  that  allows  for  shifting 
correlations  between  word  and  image,  persona  and  per- 
former, enactment  and  illustration,  speech  and  recitation, 
explanation  and  ambiguity  [the  film]  circles  in  a  narrowing 
spiral  toward  its  primary  concerns:  the  uncertain  relation 
of  public  act  to  private  fate,  the  ever-present  possibility  for 
disparity  between  public-directed  conscience  and  private 
will."  Rainer's  arresting  images  compose  an  intricate  nar- 
rative that  explores  the  female  protagonist  as  public  artist 
and  private  self. 

This  personal  film  was  followed  in  1980  with  Journeys 
from  Berlin/1971,  a  reflexive  work  that  juxtaposes  radically 
opposed  forces  of  both  a  personal  and  public  nature. 
Thus  we  see  characters  shifting  their  identity  from  scene 
to  scene  and  rear-screen-projected  images  altering  the 
ground  of  the  action  within  the  scene.  Politics  becomes 


historical  and  imaginative  as  we  follow  five  characters 
through  changing  points  of  view  through  voice-over,  pro- 
jected images,  props,  and  urban  locations,  causing  the 
meaning  of  the  image  and  text  to  shift  with  each  scene. 

Yvonne  Rainer's  latest  film,  The  Man  Who  Envied 
Women  (1985),  resynthesizes  the  elements  of  her  earlier 
works  as  characters,  male  and  female,  construct  rela- 
tionships and  roles  within  the  urban  environment  of  the 
1980s — where  real  estate  and  psychoanalytic  theory  vie 
with  each  other  as  the  dominant  themes  of  cultural  and 
political  life.  With  wit  and  at  some  risk,  Rainer  pursues  the 
contradictions  within  the  life  of  the  intellectual  and  the 
artist.  She  plays  with  the  concept  of  power,  both  of  the 
image  and  the  word,  as  her  characters  change  ap- 
pearance and  roles,  voice  interpretations  of  vaudevillian 
dreams ,  engage  in  psychoanalytic/sexual  combat  through 
speech  and  gesture,  blindness  and  insight. 

Rainer  effectively  develops  scenes  that  play  out  dif- 
ferent points  of  view:  For  example,  in  one  scene,  avant- 
garde  and  popular  film  sequences  are  screened  before  an 
audience  in  the  film,  as  the  male  protagonist,  seated  on 
stage,  delivers  a  running  commentary.  The  kaleidoscopic 
change  of  scenes  and  characters  is  further  developed  in 
Rainer's  strategic  employment  of  documentary  footage, 
videotape,  and  performances  in  a  variety  of  locations.  The 
result  is  an  incisive  vision  of  New  York  City,  the  contra- 
diction-riddled, post-modern  metropolis  of  late  capitalism. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Some  Strategies  for  Screwing  Up 
Cinematic  Narrative 

Play  with  signifiers  of  desire.  Have  two  or  more  actors 
play  the  main  male  character.  Remove  the  physical  pres- 
ence of  the  female  protagonist  and  reintroduce  her  as  a 
voice.  Create  situations  that  can  accommodate  both  am- 
biguity and  contradiction  without  eliminating  the  pos- 
sibility of  taking  specific  political  stands. 

Shift  the  image/ground  of  narrative  movement  by  fre- 
quent changes  in  the  "production  value"  of  the  image, 
e.g.,  by  utilizing  refilming  techniques,  blown  up  Super-8, 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


int 


inferior  quality  video  transfers,  shooting  off  of  a  TV  set 
with  bad  reception,  etc.,  not  in  order  to  make  the  usual 
intra-narrative  tropes,  however,  such  as  the  character's 
"look"  at  a  TV  show  or  a  shift  in  meaning  of  the  image  to 
dream,  flashback,  or  inner  thoughts  of  a  character.  What 
I'm  talking  about  is  a  disruption  of  the  glossy,  unified 
surface  of  professional  cinematography  by  means  of  op- 
tically degenerated  shots  within  an  otherwise  seam- 
lessly edited  narrative  sequence. 

Play  off  different,  sometimes  conflicting,  authorial 
voices.  And  here  I'm  not  talking  about  balance  or  both 
sides  of  a  question  like  the  nightly  news,  or  about  find- 
ing a  "new  language"  for  women.  I'm  talking  about 
registers  of  complicity/protest/acquiescence  within  a 
single  shot  or  scene  that  do  not  give  a  message  of  de- 
spair. I'm  talking  about  bad  guys  making  progressive 
political  sense  and  good  girls  shooting  off  their  big  toes 
and  mouths.  I'm  talking  about  uneven  development  and 
fit  in  the  departments  of  consciousness,  activism,  artic- 
ulation, and  behavior  that  must  be  constantly  reas- 
sessed by  the  spectator.  I'm  talking  about  incongruous 
juxtapositions  of  modes  of  address:  recitation,  reading, 
"real"  or  spontaneous  speech,  printed  texts,  quoted 
texts,  et  al.,  all  in  the  same  film.  I'm  talking  about  repre- 
sentations of  divine  couplings  and  (un)holy  triads  being 
rescreened  only  to  be  used  for  target  practice.  I'm  talk- 
ing about  not  pretending  that  a  life  lived  in  potholes 
taking  potshots  will  be  easy  and  without  cost,  on  screen 
or  off. 

I'm  talking  about  films  where  in  every  scene  you  have 
to  decide  anew  the  priorities  of  looking  and  listening. 
And  I'm  talking  about  films  that  allow  for  periods  of 
poetic  ambiguity  only  to  unexpectedly  erupt  into  rhet- 
oric, outrage,  direct  political  address  or  analysis  only  to 
return  to  a  new  adventure  of  Oedipus  F(l)  at  Foot  or  New 
Perils  of  Edy  Foot.  He  may  still  shoot  off  his  big  toe  while 
getting  or  not  getting  the  girl,  but  he'll  also  ask  a  few 
questions  or  wait  in  the  wings  a  little  longer  to  see  how 
the  ladies  work  it  out  without  him,  while  she  .  .  .  well, 
maybe  she'll  stop  in  her  tracks  and  muse  to  the  female 
spectator,  "Hey,  we're  wearing  the  same  dress,  aren't 
we?  Why  don't  we  pool  our  energies  and  try  to  figure  out 
what  a  political  myth  for  socialist  feminism  might  look 
like." 

So  they  (she  and  she)  make  a  movie  together  and — 

Yvonne  Rainer 


pendent/Experimental  Film  from  the  Los  Angeles  Film  Critics  Associa- 
tion in  1981  for  Journeys  from  Berlin/1971.  Rainer  has  taught  at  schools 
throughout  North  America,  including  the  New  School  for  Social  Re- 
search, the  University  of  California,  San  Diego,  the  San  Francisco  Art 
Institute,  the  California  Institute  of  the  Arts,  the  Nova  Scotia  College  of 
Art  and  Design,  and  the  School  of  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago.  She  is 
currently  teachmg  at  the  Independent  Study  Program  of  the  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art.  Rainer  lives  in  New  York. 

Filmography 

All  films  16mm,  sound. 

Lives  of  Performers,  1972.  Black  and  white,  90  minutes. 

Film  About  a  Woman  Who. . . ,  1974.  Black  and  white;  105  minutes. 

Kristina  Talking  Pictures,  1976.  Color  and  black  and  white;  90  minutes. 

Journeys  from  Berlin/1971,  1980.  Color  and  black  and  white;  125 

minutes. 
The  Man  Who  Envied  Women,  1985.  Color  and  black  and  white,  130 

minutes. 

Yvonne  Ramer's  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers'  Cooperative, 
First  Run  Features,  and  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Banes,  Sally.  "Yvonne  Rainer:  The  Aesthetics  of  Denial."  In 

Tbrpsichore  in  Sneakers:  Post-Modern  Dance.  Boston:  Houghton 

Mifflin  Company,  1980,  pp.  41-54. 
Camera  Obscura  Collective.  "Yvonne  Rainer:  Introduction  and 

Interview,"  Camera  Obscura,  no.  1  (Fall  1976). 
Carroll,  Noell.  "Interview  with  a  Woman  Who. . .",  Millennium  Film 

Journal,  nos.  7/8/9  (Fall/Winter,  1980-1981),  pp.  37-68. 
Gentile,  Mary  C.  "How  to  Have  Your  Narrative  and  Know  It  Too: 

Yvonne  Rainer's  'Film  About  a  Woman  Who . . .' "  In  Film  Feminisms, 

Theory  and  Practice.  London:  Greenwood  Press,  1985,  pp.  133-52. 
Kaplan,  E.  Ann.  Women  and  Film.  New  York:  Methuen,  1983. 
Kuhn,  Annette.  Women's  Pictures.  London:  Routledge  and  Kegan 

Paul,  1982. 
Michelson,  Annette.  "Yvonne  Rainer,  Part  Two:  'Lives  of  Performers'," 

Artforum,  12  (February  1974),  pp.  30-35. 
Rainer,  Yvonne.  "Looking  Myself  in  the  Mouth,"  October,  no.  17 

(Summer  1981),  pp.  65-76. 
Work  1961-73.  Halifax:  Nova  Scotia  College  of  Art  and 

Design,  1974. 
Rich,  B.  Ruby.  Yvonne  Rainer.  Minneapolis:  Walker  Art  Center,  1981. 

Selected  One-Artist  Screenings 

The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  American 
Art,  New  York,  1974 ;  Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York, 
1975;  The  Other  Cinema,  London,  1977;  Academy  of  Motion  Picture 
Arts  and  Sciences,  Los  Angeles,  "Aspects  of  Avant-Garde  Film,"  1981; 
Bleecker  Street  Cinema,  New  York,  "Radical  Images,"  1981;  American 
Film  Institute,  Los  Angeles,  "Evenings  with  Contemporary  Film- 
makers," 1982;  University  of  California,  Santa  Cruz,  "2nd  Yvonne  Rainer 
Film  Festival,"  1985;  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis,  1985;  Museum  of 
Fine  Arts,  Houston,  1986. 


Biography 

Yvonne  Rainer  was  born  in  San  Francisco  in  1934.  She  began  training  as 
a  modern  dancer  in  New  York  in  1957,  turning  to  choreography  in  1960, 
and  was  one  of  the  founders  of  the  Judson  Dance  Theater  in  1962.  In 
1963  she  began  to  integrate  slides  and  short  films  into  her  live  perfor- 
mances. Rainer's  feature-length  films  have  been  shown  extensively  in 
the  United  States  and  abroad,  and  prints  are  included  in  public  and 
private  collections  around  the  world.  She  has  received  numerous 
awards  and  fellowships,  among  others,  from  the  Guggenheim  Founda- 
tion (1969),  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  (1971,  1974,  1983, 
1985),  Creative  Artists  Public  Service  (1973,  1975),  the  New  York  State 
Council  on  the  Arts  (1975,  1976,  1979,  1983),  the  Deutscher  Akade- 
mischer  Austauschdienst  (1976-77),  and  won  First  Prize  for  Inde- 


Selected  Festivals 

Cannes  Film  Festival,  1974;  Montreux,  Switzerland,  "New  Forms  in 
Film,"  1974;  Cologne,  West  Germany,  "Projekt  '74,"  1974;  Edinburgh 
Film  Festival,  1975;  Filmex,  1976;  Berlin  Film  Festival,  1977;  The 
Kitchen,  New  York,  "Filmworks  '80,"  1980;  Rotterdam  Film  Festival, 
1980,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1981  Biennial  Ex- 
hibition; Montreal  Women's  Film  Festival,  1985. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  <    1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


^   Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  29 
^    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND  VIDEO 


BillFontana 


Kirribilli  Wharf,  1976 

Sound  installation.  Exhibited  continuously 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  April  22,  at  2:00 
Bill  Fontana  will  be  present. 


Credits 

Andrew  McLennan,  Executive  Producer,  Australian  Broadcasting  Corp. 

Bill  Fontana's  sound  sculptures  are  sophisticated  inves- 
tigations into  the  way  we  perceive  sounds  in  the  world. 
As  in  learning  a  language,  we  identify  sounds  through  a 
complex  set  of  sensory  cues,  linking  them  to  their  techno- 
logical or  natural  sources  in  the  environment.  Bill  Fontana 
has  created  a  series  of  compelling  projects  that  subtly 
treat  the  interplay  between  the  origins  of  sound  and  the 
contexts  in  which  we  perceive  them.  One  could  consider 
Fontana's  work  in  relation  to  Marcel  Duchamp's  strategy 
of  the  found  object.  By  removing  an  everyday  object  from 
its  customary  context,  labeling  it  an  art  object,  and  placing 
it  in  a  gallery,  Duchamp  gave  it  new  meaning  and  signifi- 
cance. This  strategy  overturned  the  traditional  assump- 
tion of  what  makes  a  work  of  art.  Other  modernists  carried 
Duchamp's  ideas  into  composition  and  performance.  John 
Cage,  in  his  seminal  composition  4'33"  from  the  early 
1950s,  instructs  the  musician  to  make  no  sound.  The  per- 
formance then,  is  made  up  of  those  sounds  which,  by 
chance,  fill  the  concert  hall  during  the  length  of  the  com- 
position. Other  artists  such  as  Max  Neuhaus  and  Alvin 
Lucier  explored  and  manipulated  the  natural  sounds  of 
the  environment.  The  result  of  these  endeavors  has  been  a 
new  definition  of  music,  one  that  links  sound  to  the  en- 
vironment that  generates  it. 

In  1983  Fontana  completed  Oscillating  Steel  Grids  Along 
the  Brooklyn  Bridge  on  the  occasion  of  the  bridge's  centen- 
nial. The  public,  standing  in  the  plaza  of  the  World  Trade 
Center,  heard  from  hidden  speakers  the  sounds  made  by 
the  vibrations  of  the  bridge's  road  surface  from  the  con- 
stant surge  of  traffic.  By  transmitting  these  sounds  live 
from  the  bridge  to  a  public  plaza — that  is,  to  a  place 
removed  from  the  cause  of  the  sound — the  listener  be- 
comes more  aware  of  tonal  range  and  modulation.  Isolat- 
ing the  sound  from  its  source,  Fontana  enables  the  listener 
to  concentrate  on  its  intrinsic  beauty  and  complexity. 

In  Entfernte  Ziige  ("Distant  Trains")  the  original  source 
of  the  sound  is  central  to  Fontana's  concept.  While  an 
artist-in-residence  in  West  Berlin  in  1984,  he  visited  an 
empty  field  which  had  once  been  the  site  of  the  Anhalter 
Bahnhof,  a  major  train  station  in  prewar  Berlin.  He  there 
played  sounds  he  had  recorded  onto  8-channel  tape  at  the 
Cologne  railroad  station — West  Germany's  busiest.  The 


sounds  emanating  from  eight  speakers  hidden  in  the  des- 
olate field  evoked  a  haunting  sense  of  a  bustling  train 
station. 

Kirribilli  Wharf  (1976),  Fontana's  first  8-channel  field  re- 
cording, is  a  key  work  in  his  career.  He  recorded  the  sound 
of  the  waves  rushing  beneath  Kirribilli  Wharf  in  Sydney 
Harbor,  Australia.  The  sound  of  the  water  echoing  through 
the  gallery  evokes  the  tangible  presence  of  the  wharf.  In 
this  work,  as  in  his  other  sound  sculptures,  audio  becomes 
the  physical  medium  of  a  subtle  aesthetic  experience. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  compositional  aspects  of  ambient  sound  have  been  a 
central  issue  in  my  work  since  1968.  I  have  used  field 
recc  ding  as  a  way  to  investigate  the  whole  range  of  our 
normal  experience  of  ambient  sound  in  terms  of  how  vari- 
ous instances  possess  musical  form.  These  investigations 
have  been  carried  out  under  the  pervading  influence  of  a 
rhetorical  question:  what  is  this  sound  that  I  am  now 
hearing?  Logically,  a  true  answer  to  this  question  for  any 
sound  would  have  the  form:  a  sound  is  all  the  possible 
ways  there  are  to  hear  it. 

My  acoustical  investigations  became  increasingly 
sculptural  by  the  mid-seventies  as  I  became  more  and 
more  interested  in  the  spatial  properties  of  sound  fields.  I 
was  fascinated  with  how  familiar  sound  sources  had 
many  possible  acoustical  perspectives,  and  how  the  si- 
multaneous perception  of  these  possible  perspectives 
could  transform  the  acoustical  meaning  of  the  sound. 

Coincident  with  my  growing  interest  in  the  spatial  prop- 
erties of  sound  fields,  I  moved  to  Australia  in  1975,  where  I 
began  working  with  the  Australian  Broadcasting  Corpo- 
ration, making  field  recordings  of  various  Australian 
soundscapes.  The  emptiness  and  vastness  of  the  Aus- 
tralian landscape  was  inspiring  to  me,  and  greatly  nur- 
tured my  spatial  thinking  about  sound  fields. 

During  this  time,  with  the  ABC's  technical  assistance,  I 
made  my  first  8-channel  field  recordings  of  environmental 
sound  sources.  The  first  such  recording  to  be  realized, 


Bill  Fontana  recording  sounds  at  the  Cologne  train  station  for  Entfemte 
Zuge,  1984.  Photograph  by  Rolf  Langebantels. 


Kirribilli  Wharf  (1976),  marked  a  turning  point  in  my  work. 
After  several  years  of  dreaming  about  the  possibilities  of 
making  such  recordings,  the  successful  realization  of  Kir- 
ribilli Wharf  made  tangible  to  me  a  whole  new  world  of 
possible  sound  sculptures. 

Kirnbilli  Wharf  itself  is  a  floating  dock  on  the  north  side 
of  Sydney  Harbor.  I  used  to  catch  a  ferry  there  every  day  to 
get  to  Circular  Quay  in  downtown  Sydney.  One  day  while 
waiting  for  a  ferry,  I  noticed  that  there  were  many  small 
cylindrical  holes  between  the  surface  I  stood  on  and  the 
ocean  beneath.  Putting  my  ear  to  one  of  these  openings 
revealed  a  wonderful  resonant  sound  (compression  wave) 
caused  by  the  waves  underneath  suddenly  closing  the 
bottom  end  of  the  cylindrical  hole.  As  the  position  of  each 
hole  would  be  in  a  different  relationship  to  the  phase  of  the 
waves  below  I  imagined  simultaneously  recording  many 
of  these  holes.  Later,  one  quiet  evening,  an  ABC  Outside 
Broadcast  van  pulled  up  to  Kirribilli  Wharf  and  I  positioned 
microphones  at  the  openings  of  eight  cylindrical  holes. 
The  resulting  tape  is  played  here  out  of  eight  loudspeakers 
as  a  sound  sculpture. 

Bill  Fontana 


Biography 

Bill  Fontana  is  a  composer,  audio  artist  and  sound  sculptor.  Bom  in 
Cleveland  in  1947,  he  studied  composition  with  Philip  Comer,  and  majored 
in  philosophy  at  the  New  School  for  Social  Research  (B.A.,  1970).  He  has 
been  awarded  numerous  grants  and  fellowships,  including  a  National 
Endowment  for  the  Arts  Composers  Fellowship  in  1979,  a  Satellite  Pro- 
gram Development  Fund  grant  from  National  Public  Radio  in  1982,  an  NEA 
Inter-Arts  grant  in  1983,  and  grants  from  the  NEA  Media  Arts  Program  in 
1984  and  1985.  Fontana  was  artist-in-residence  at  the  Deutscher 
Akadermscher  Austauschdienst,  West  Berlin  (1983-84).  A  resident  of 
Berkeley,  he  is  currently  artist-in-residence  in  Japan  (Japan-U.S.  Creative 
Arts  Fellowship,  1985-86). 

Selected  Sound  Sculptures 

Prince  Alfred  Bridge,  National  Gallery  of  Victona,  Melbourne,  1978. 

Space  Between  Sounds,  San  Francisco  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  1978. 

Flight  Paths  Out  to  Sea,  Newport  Harbor  Art  Museum,  Newport  Beach, 
California,  1980. 

Landscape  Sculpture  with  Fog  Horns,  New  Music  America  '81,  San  Fran- 
cisco, 1981. 

Sound  Sculpture  with  a  Sequence  of  Level  Crossings,  12th  International 
Sculpture  Conference,  Oakland,  California,  1982. 

Oscillating  Steel  Grids  Along  the  Brooklyn  Bridge,  World  Trade  Center  and 
The  Brooklyn  Museum,  New  York,  1983. 

Rochester  Birds,  Long  Ridge  Mall,  Rochester,  New  York,  1983. 

Entfemte  Zuge,  Berliner  Kiinstlerprogramm  des  DAAD/ International  Bau- 
ausstellung,  Berlin/West  German  Radio,  West  Berlin,  1984. 

Hidden  Market,  13th  Biennale  de  Pans,  1985. 

Metropolis  Koln,  West  German  Radio,  Cologne,  1985. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Los  Angeles  Institute  of  Contemporary  Art,  "Sound,"  1979;  Akademieder 
Kiinste,  West  Berlin,  "Fur  AugenundOhren,"  1980;  Musee  d'Art  Modeme 
de  la  Ville  de  Paris,  "Ecouter  par  les  Yeux,"  1980;  Neuberger  Museum, 
Purchase,  New  York,  "Soundings,"  1981;  Rimini,  Italy,  "Sonorita  Prospet- 
tiche,"  1982;  The  Brooklyn  Museum,  "Great  East  River  Bndge,"  1983 
International  BauaussteDung  Berlin,  "Idee/Prozess/Ergebnis,"  1984 
Kunstmuseum  Bern,  "Alles  und  Noch  Viel  Mehr;  Das  Poetische  ABC," 
1985;  13th  Biennale  de  Pans,  "Section  Son,"  1985;  Kolnischer  Kunstverern, 
Cologne,  "Komponisten  als  Horspiel  Macher,"  1985. 

Recordings 

Sound   Sculpture:    Bill   Fontana,    1978.    National    Gallery    of   Victona, 

Melbourne. 
Landscape  Sculpture  with  Fog  Horns,  1982.  KQED-FM,  San  Francisco. 
Field  Recordings  of  Natural  Sounds,  1983.  Sierra  Club,  San  Francisco. 
Sounds  of  the  Bay  Area,  1983.  KQED-FM,  San  Francisco. 
Klang  Recycling  Skulptur,  1983.  Galene  Giannozzo,  West  Berlin. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Brooklyn  Bridge  Sound  Sculpture  (exhibition  catalogue).  West  Berlin: 
Amerika  Haus,  1983. 

Fontana,  Bill.  "  Entfemte  Ziige  und  Klang  Recycling  Skulptur."  In  Alles  und 
Noch  Viel  Mehr:  Das  Poetische  ABC  (exhibition  catalogue).  Kunst- 
museum Bern,  1984,  pp.  46-48. 

.  "Thoughts  on  Sound."  In  Sound  (exhibition  catalogue).  Los  An- 
geles: Los  Angeles  Institute  of  Contemporary  Art,  1979,  pp.  39-40. 

Sound  Sculpture:  Bill  Fontana  (exhibition  catalogue).  Melbourne:  National 
Gallery  of  Victoria,  1977. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  0  1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  30 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM   AND   VIDEO 


Gary  Hill 


May  24- June  15,  1986 


Schedule 

All  videotapes  %-iiich,  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Tuesdays  at  1:15  and  5:15;  Wednesdays-Saturdays  at  12:30; 

Sundays  at  12:15  and  4:30 
Air  Raid,  1974.  Black  and  white;  6  minutes. 
Sums  &  Differences,  1978.  Black  and  white;  8  minutes. 
Electronic  Linguistics,  1978.  Black  and  white;  4  minutes. 
Elements,  1978.  Black  and  white;  2  minutes. 
Processual  Video,  1980.  Black  and  white;  11  minutes. 
Black/White/Text,  1980.  Black  and  white,  stereo  sound;  7  minutes. 
Videograms,  1980-81.  Black  and  white;  13  minutes. 
Happenstance  (part  I  of  many  parts) ,  1982-83.  Black  and  white,  stereo 

sound;  6  minutes. 

Tuesdays  at  2:30  and  6:30;  Wednesdays— Saturdays  at  2:30; 

Sundays  at  1:30 
Ring  Modulation  (Full  Circle),  1978.  Color;  4  minutes. 
Mouth  Piece,  1978.  Color;  1  minute. 
Soundings,  1979.  Color;  17  minutes. 
Picture  Story,  1979.  Color;  7  minutes. 
Equal  Time,  1979.  Color,  stereo  sound;  4  minutes. 
Primarily  Speaking,  1981-83.  Color,  stereo  sound;  20  minutes. 
Around  &  About,  1980.  Color;  5  minutes. 

Tuesdays  at  4:00;  Wednesdays-Saturdays  at  11:15  and  3:45; 

Sundays  at  3:00 
Why  Do  Things  Get  in  a  Muddle?  (Come  on  Petunia),  1984.  Color; 

32  minutes. 
URA  ARU  (the  backside  exists),  1985-86.  Color;  27  minutes. 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  May  27,  after  the 
2:30  screening.  Gary  Hill  will  be  present. 


WW/            ^^ 

x         K 

■    ' 

URA  ARU  (the  backside  exists),  1985-86. 


Gary  Hill's  videotapes  are  complex  meditations  on  the 
interrelation  between  image  and  language.  His  early 
tapes,  including  Sums  &  Differences,  Elements,  and  Pri- 
mary (all  of  1978),  are  formal  investigations  that  integrate 
the  audio  and  video  components  so  tightly  that  sound 
becomes  almost  visually  apprehensible.  These  tapes  re- 
veal Hill's  precise  weighing  of  image  and  language  as 
carriers  of  meaning.  Later  tapes,  such  as  Processual  Video 
(1980),  Videograms  (1980-81),  and  Around  &  About  (1980), 
retain  Hill's  minimal  rigor,  but  they  are  also  richly  evocative 
pieces  that  variously  resemble  poems,  stories,  and  solilo- 
quies. They  can  be  seen  as  precursors  of  his  latest  produc- 
tions Why  Do  Things  Get  in  a  Muddle?  (Come  on  Petunia) 
(1984)  and  URA  ARU  (the  backside  exists)  (1985-86),  which 
employ  formal  and  rhetorical  strategies  to  explore 
narrative. 

Using  texts  by  Gregory  Bateson  and  Lewis  Carroll,  Why- 
Do  Things  Get  in  a  Muddle?  is  a  speculation  on  narrative 
derived  from  Bateson's  concept  of  the  "metalogue,"  a  con- 
versation whose  structure  is  related  to  its  subject.  The 
parenthetical  subtitle  is  an  anagram  for  the  phrase  "Once 
upon  a  time,"  and  in  producing  the  tape,  the  actors  spoke 


and  performed  in  reverse.  When  the  tape  is  played  for- 
ward, their  speech  and  actions,  though  recognizable,  are 
distorted  to  create  a  dreamlike  state. 

URA  ARU  treats  a  selection  of  Japanese  words  as  pal- 
indromes, words  that  read  the  same  backward  or  forward. 
In  the  tape,  which  consists  of  a  series  of  visual-verbal 
haiku,  Hill  employs  great  economy  of  action  and  technique 
as  the  printed  word,  moving  through  each  scene,  echoes 
the  spoken  word.  The  result  is  an  inscription  of  language 
into  the  narrative  space. 

Gary  Hill  uses  video's  temporal  aspect  to  create  a  visible 
speech  that  articulates  language  as  a  semiotic  form  of 
nuanced  meanings.  In  his  careful  orchestration  of  video's 
electronic  capabilities,  Hill  has  achieved  a  truly  poetic  art 
whereby  word  and  image  are  elegantly  fused  in  a  repre- 
sentation  of  meaning   as   language — both  visual   and 

literary. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 

Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  with  public  funds  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  with  a  grant 
from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


This  selection  of  work  covers  much  of  the  territory  I've 
been  working  on  in  single -channel  video  for  the  past  de- 
cade or  so.  Surely  this  does  not  ring  as  loud  for  you  as  it 
does  for  me!  Gathering  these  works  has  been  a  somewhat 
painful  endeavor,  raising  questions  and  times  of  self 
doubt.  Thoughts  of  revision  have  certainly  crossed  my 
mind  but  to  partake  in  such  would  be  to  undermine  the 
spirit  of  experimentation  that  brought  these  works  to 
pass.  Nevertheless,  the  nagging  uprisings  from  across 
and  afar  the  breaches  of  time  are  reminders  that  suggest 
the  option  remains  open  (perhaps  in  keeping  with  that 
spirit  of  experimentation)  regardless  that  it  may  very  well 
go  unexercised.  Enough  retro-spection. 

The  earlier  works  (e.g.  Air  Raid,  Sums  &  Differences, 
Ring  Modulation  (Full  Circle) ,  variations  on  the  notion  of  a 
sound-image  construct,  arose  primarily  out  of  a  dialogue 
with  the  properties  of  the  medium.  This  process,  however, 
was  significantly  underscored  by  a  need  to  interrupt  TV 
that  incessant  oscillation;  to  transform  the  electronic  sig- 
nal, giving  it  a  sense  of  physicality  in  contradiction  to  the 
otherwise  ephemeral  stream  of  information.  In  Processual 
Video,  Black/White/lext,  and  Happenstance,  the  orienta- 
tion shifted  toward  the  "processual,"  into  a  reflexive  space 
wherein  an  experience  with  language  informs  the  image- 
making  that  in  turn  enfolds  back  upon  the  ways  in  which 
language  originates — a  kind  of  image /language  Mobius 
strip.  Around  &  About  and  Primarily  Speaking  were  at- 
tempts to  engage  the  "positions"  of  the  viewer  and  to  treat 
images  offhandedly,  making  their  context  and  content 
susceptible  to  the  utterances  of  speech.  And  most  re- 
cently, Why  Do  Things  Get  in  a  Muddle?  (Come  on  Petunia) 
and  URA  ARU  (the  backside  exists),  originally  stirred  by 
explorations  concerned  with  the  acoustic  elements  of  lan- 
guage, have  led  me  via  the  metalogues  of  Gregory 
Bateson  to  fundamental  questions  on  the  directionality  of 
thought  with  respect  to  time. 

But  these  descriptions  and  methodologies  begin  to  fal- 
ter, quickly  becoming  antithetical  to  the  substance  of  the 
works.  One  might  think  of  them  as  already  having  been 
inscribed  with  evidences  of  wandering.  Then,  perhaps,  in 
a  less  circumscribed  manner,  a  genuine  possibility  for  the 

viewer  to  bear  witness  swings  open. 

Gary  Hill 


BiogTaphy 

Gary  Hill,  born  in  Santa  Monica,  California,  in  1951,  currently  lives  and 
works  in  upstate  New  York  and  Seattle.  Originally  a  sculptor,  Hill  began 
working  with  video  in  the  early  1970s  and  has  produced  a  large  body  of 
both  single-channel  works  and  inter-media  installations.  He  has  received 
several  grants  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  and  the 
National  Endowment  for  the  Arts ;  among  the  latter,  a  Japan/United  States 
Cultural  Exchange  Fellowship.  While  in  Japan  he  was  artist-in-residence 
at  the  Sony  Corporation  in  Hon  Atsugi.  Hill  was  a  Video  Artist  Fellow  of  the 
Rockefeller  Foundation  and  was  recently  awarded  a  Guggenheim  Fel- 
lowship. He  has  taught  at  the  Center  for  Media  Study,  Buffalo;  Bard 
College,  Annandale-on-Hudson,  New  York,  and  the  Cornish  Institute, 
Seattle. 


Other  Selected  Videotapes 

All  videotapes  3Vinch,  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

The  Fall,  1973.  Black  and  white;  11  minutes. 

Rock  City  Road,  1974-75.  Color,  silent;  12  minutes. 

Earth  Pulse,  1975.  Color;  6  minutes. 

Embryonics  II,  1976.  Color,  silent;  12  minutes 

Improvisations  with  Bluestone,  1976.  Color;  7  minutes. 

Mirror  Road,  1976.  Color,  silent;  6  minutes. 

Bathing.  1977.  Color,  silent;  4  minutes. 

Windows,  1978.  Color,  silent;  8  minutes. 

Primary,  1978.  Color;  2  minutes. 

Objects  with  Destinations,  1979.  Color,  silent;  4  minutes. 

Commentary,  1980.  Color;  1  minute. 

Gary  Hill's  videotapes  are  distributed  by  Electronic  Arts  Intermix  and 
The  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  New  York. 


Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Anthology  Film  Archives,  New  York,  1976;  Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syr- 
acuse, New  York,  1979;  The  Kitchen  Center  for  Video,  Music  and  Dance, 
New  York,  1979;  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Video  View- 
points," 1980;  Galene  H  at  ORE  Steinscher  Herbst,  Graz,  Austna,  1982; 
Long  Beach  Museum  of  Art,  Long  Beach,  California,  1982;  American 
Center,  Pans,  1983;  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1983; 
SCAN  Gallery,  Tokyo,  1985. 


Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  "New  Work  in  Abstract 
Video  Imagery,"  1977,  "Video  Revue,"  1979;  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art, 
New  York,  "Projects:  Video  XXVUI,"  1979;  Video  80/San  Francisco  Video 
Festival,  1980;  The  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  New  York,  "Projects;  Video 
XXXV"  1981;  Sydney,  Australia,  Biennale,  1982;  Palais  des  Beaux- Arts, 
Brussels,  'Art  Video  Retrospectives  et  Perspectives,"  1983;  Walter  Phillips 
Gallery,  Banff,  Alberta,  Canada,  "The  Second  Link:  Viewpoints  on  Video  in 
the  Eighties,"  1983  (traveled);  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New 
York,  1983  and  1985  Biennial  Exhibitions;  Kulturhuset,  Stockholm,  Swe- 
den, Stockholm  International  Video  Art  Festival  '85, 1985;  Musee  National 
d'Art  Modeme,  Centre  National  d'Art  et  de  Culture  Georges  Pompidou, 
Pans,  "Collections  Videos — Acquisitions  depuis  1977,"  1986. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Furlong,  Luanda.  "A  Manner  of  Speaking:  An  Interview  with  Gary  Hill," 
Afterimage,  10  (March  1983),  pp.  9-16. 

Hagen,  Charles.  "Reviews:  Gary  Hill,"  Arttorum,  22  (February  1984), 
pp.  77-78. 

.  "Tube  Art  (take  out),"  The  Village  Voice,  May  14,  1985,  p.  46. 

Hanhardt,  John  G.  "Gary  Hill"  (program  notes),  The  New  American  Film- 
maker Series  12,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1983. 
Kolpan,  Steven  C.  "Bateson  through  the  Looking  Glass,"  Video  and  the 
Arts,  no.  11  (Winter  1986),  pp.  20-22,  35,  56. 

Larson,  Kay  "Through  a  Screen,  Dimly,"  New  York,  September  12, 1983,  pp. 
86-87. 

Quasha,  George.  "Notes  on  the  Feedback  Honzon,"  in  Glass  Onion  (pro- 
gram notes,  exhibition  at  And/Or  Gallery,  Seattle,  1981).  Barrytown,  New 
York:  Station  Hill  Press,  1980. 

Renouf,  Renee.  "Video:  Conceptual  Visualizations,"  Artweek,  July  3, 1982, 
p.  2. 

Tono,  Yoshiaki,  "Why  Do  Things  Get  in  a  Muddle?"  (program  notes),  SCAN 
Gallery,  Tokyo,  May-April  1985. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  0  1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  Americ 
The  NewAmerican  Filmn 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND 


James  Benning 


Schedule 

All  films  16mm,  color  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Program  I  (October  7-10,  12) 

Tuesday  at  2:00;  Wednesday-Fnday  at  12:00;  Sunday  at  1:00 

Time  &  a  Hair",  1972;  black  and  white,  17  minutes.  Art  Hist.  101,  1972; 

color  and  black  and  white,  17  minutes;  made  with  Mike  Milligan. 

Honeylane  Road,  1973;  6  minutes.  Michigan  Avenue,  1973;  6  minutes; 

made  with  Bette  Gordon.  8V2  x  11,  1974;  33  minutes. 

Program  II  (October  7-12) 

Tuesday  at  6:30;  Wednesday-Friday  at  3:00;  Saturday  at  3:30;  Sunday 

at  4:00 

i94,  1974;  3  minutes;  made  with  Bette  Gordon.  The  United  States  of 

America,  1975;  25  minutes;  made  with  Bette  Gordon.  9/1/75,  1975;  22 

minutes.  Chicago  Loop,  1976;  9  minutes. 

Program  III  (October  14-19) 

Tuesday  at  2:00;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  12:00;  Sunday  at  1:00 

11  x  14,  1976;  83  minutes. 

Program  IV  (October  14-19) 

Tuesday  at  6:30;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  3:00;  Sunday  at  4:00 

One  Way  Boogie  Woogie,  1977;  60  minutes. 

Program  V  (October  21-26) 

Tuesday  at  2:00;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  12:00;  Sunday  at  1:00 

Grand  Opera,  1979;  90  minutes. 

Program  VI  (October  21-26) 

Tuesday  at  6:00;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  3:00;  Sunday  at  4:00 

Him  and  Me,  1982;  88  minutes. 

Program  VII  (October  28-November  7) 

Tuesday  at  2:00;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  12:00;  Sunday  at  1:00 
American  Dreams,  1983;  56  minutes   O  Panama,  1985,  28  minutes;  made 
with  Burt  Barr. 

Program  VIII  (October  28-November  7) 

Tuesday  at  6:00,  Wednesday-Saturday  at  3:00;  Sunday  at  4:00 

Landscape  Suicide,  1986;  95  minutes. 

The  films  of  James  Benning  constitute  a  distinguished 
and  unique  contribution  to  the  American  independent 
cinema.  Benning  has  produced  a  body  of  work  that  is 
both  a  meditation  on  American  culture  and  society  and  a 
reflection  on  the  self  of  the  artist.  These  twin  issues  are 
subtly  elaborated  through  a  vision  that  emphasizes  the 
power  of  the  photographic  image  and  reevaluates  cin- 
ematic narrative.  The  dialectical  pull  between  the  formal 
qualities  of  Benning's  cinematic  compositions  and  the 
construction  of  narrative  involves  the  viewer  in  a 
rigorous  reflection  on  the  traditional  discourse  of  film. 

Classical   cinematic   narrative    engages   the   viewer 
through  familiarity.  We  expect  Hollywood  movies  to 


Gallery  Talk,  Wednesday,  October  29,  following 
the  12:00  screening.  James  Benning  will 
be  present. 


Landscape  Suicide,  1986. 

adhere  to  certain  narrative  conventions,  such  as  the  way 
shot  sequences  are  edited  to  propel  the  story  forward, 
and  feel  gratification  at  the  conclusion  of  a  sequence. 
Film  directors  whose  work  is  underwritten  and  dis- 
tributed by  the  major  studios  conform  to  these  codes.  In 
contrast,  avant-garde  filmmakers  actively  question 
strategies  that  expose  the  processes  of  cinematic  dis- 
course. This  is  most  evident  in  the  feature-length  Grand 
Opera  (1979),  where  Benning  reflects  on  the  history  of 
avant-garde  film  and  his  own  youth  in  the  Midwest. 
Filmmakers  Hollis  Frampton,  George  Landow,  Yvonne 
Rainer,  and  Michael  Snow  appear  briefly  and  the  film 
makes  often  humorous  allusions  to  the  history  of  avant- 
garde  cinema  and  its  canon  of  "structural"  filmmak- 
ing— that  is,  films  which  explore  the  forms  and  tech- 
niques of  the  medium.  Using  autobiographical  ele- 
ments, including  360-degree  pans  of  the  facades  of 
houses  that  he  has  lived  in,  and  references  to  his  past 
work,  Benning  creates  an  ironic  "structural"  history  of 
his  position  within  the  avant-garde. 

Grand  Opera,  like  his  other  films,  is  composed  of  single 
shots  which  challenge  the  viewer  to  think  about  what  he 
or  she  sees.  In  such  films  as  8V2  x  11  (1974)  and  11  x  14 
(1976)  Benning  fashions  out  of  single-shot  sequences  a 
cinema  rooted  in  the  landscape  of  the  Midwest.  The 
narrative,  at  once  ironic  and  paradoxical,  is  pieced  to- 
gether by  the  viewers  as  they  follow  the  composition 
and  juxtaposition  of  the  individual  shots.  In  One  Way 


Boogie  Woogie  (1977)  Benning  further  strips  the  film  of 
its  overt  narrative  by  emphasizing  individual  shots 
through  composition,  content,  and  temporal  change, 
and  the  flatness  of  the  photographic  image  playing  off 
its  inherent  illusionism. 

Him  and  Me  (1982)  and  Landscape  Suicide  (1986)  are 
Benning's  most  ambitious  narrative  works.  Him  and  Me 
situates  the  artist  in  a  journey  through  three  decades  of 
political,  social,  and  personal  change,  which  we  witness 
through  fragmentary  autobiographical  and  historical 
images.  This  powerful  imagery  creates  a  richly  textured 
work.  Landscape  Suicide  returns  to  the  themes  of  his 
earlier  films  by  foregrounding  the  landscape  image  and 
acted  tableaux.  Here  place  is  seen  not  as  neutral  or 
empty  but  as  the  condition  that  informs  and  reflects  on 
the  stories  that  fill  it.  Benning's  cinematography  is  sub- 
tly evocative  when  juxtaposed  with  the  testimonies  of 
personal  destruction:  violence  and  anguish,  sacrifice 
and  death.  The  result  is  a  panorama  of  hidden  meanings 
from  public  and  private  memory.  Landscape  Suicide  is 
both  a  physical  and  mental  landscape  whose  subtext  is 
the  artist's  struggle  to  comprehend  the  world  we  live  in. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Biography 

Born  in  Milwaukee  in  1942,  James  Benning  studied  at  the  University  of 
Wisconsin,  where  he  received  a  B.S.  in  mathematics  (1966)  and  an 
M.EA.  m  film  and  graphic  arts  (1975).  Benning  has  also  created  film 
installations;  one  of  these,  Last  Dance,  was  shown  in  the  New  Amer- 
ican Filmmakers  Series  in  1981.  He  was  awarded  grants  from  the  Amer- 
ican Film  Institute  (1975),  the  Wisconsin  Arts  Board  (1978),  ZDE  West 
Germany  (1981),  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts,  the  New  York 
State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  Massachusetts  Council  on  the  Arts 
and  Humanities  (1984),  and  the  CAT  Fund  (1985),  among  others.  Films 
by  Benning  are  included  in  numerous  collections,  mcluding  The  Mu- 
seum of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  the  American  Film  Institute,  Los  An- 
geles, and  the  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis.  James  Benning  lives  and 
works  in  New  York. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Film  Forum,  New  York,  1973;  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art,  Chicago, 
1975;  Albnght-Knox  Art  Gallery,  Buffalo,  1978;  Institute  of  Contempo- 
rary Art,  Boston,  1978;  San  Francisco  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  1978; 
Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1980;  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art,  1981;  The  Museum  of  Fine  Arts.  Houston, 
1984;  The  Kitchen,  New  York,  1985;  Millennium,  New  York,  1986;  Walker 
Art  Center,  Minneapolis,  1986. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Cannes  International  Film  Festival,  1974;  New  Directors/New  Films, 
The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1975,  1977;  Documenta  6, 
Kassel,  West  Germany,  1977;  Internationales  Forum  des  Jungen  Films, 
West  Berlin,  1977,  1980;  Artpark,  Lewiston.  New  York,  1978;  Edinburgh 
International  Film  Festival,  1978,  1980;  Whitney  Museum  of  American 
Art,  1979,  1981,  and  1983  Biennial  Exhibitions. 


Fifteen  years  of  films.  Each  seems  to  be  a  record  of  those 
times  and  places  I  occupied.  I  am  interested  in  life  and 
death  and  place,  but  at  a  distance.  And  incomplete,  so 
the  viewer  has  to  fill  in  the  rest.  To  make  up  meaning.  To 
evoke  memory.  Sometimes  at  real  time  and  for  long  dura- 
tions to  provoke  thought  or  simulate  an  experience. 
Sometimes  with  a  word.  Vietnam.  I  use  narrative  as  a 
context  for  my  interest  in  form.  Like  off  screen  space.  Or 
symmetry  and  order.  Or  words  that  extend  off  the  page. 
Sound  and  image.  Or  color.  And  I  use  narrative  as  a 
context  for  itself.  Little  tales  making  bigger  ones.  Fore- 
shadowing structures. 

And  place  has  always  had  a  hand  on  me.  A  Mid- 
westerner.  I  love  Wisconsin.  I  had  an  awful  time  in  South- 
ern California.  But  the  desert  is  amazing.  I  played  on  the 
railroad  tracks  in  the  industrial  valley.  Rain  on  an  Orinda 
tennis  court.  Oil  wells  in  Oklahoma.  Snow  blowing 
across  Main  Street  in  Plainfield. 

But  I  am  a  storyteller.  Both  my  own  and  others,  mixing 
it  up  with  history.  I  got  drunk  with  Hollis  in  Evanston, 
Illinois.  I  worked  on  the  drill  press  in  Time  &  a  Half.  I 
pitched  batting  practice  to  the  Milwaukee  Braves  in 
1963.  Arthur  Bremer  was  my  neighbor.  I  like  cars  and 
trucks.  A  good  friend  of  mine  died  in  her  sleep.  I  woke  up 
next  to  her  in  the  morning.  I  marched  with  Father  James 
Groppi  in  Milwaukee. 

My  newest  film  scares  me.  I  looked  at  death  for  a  year. 
Unexplainably  developed  double  vision  for  eight  days. 
The  C.A.T.  scan  offered  no  clues.  My  eyes  got  better  on 
their  own.  I  feel  the  pain  of  Bernadette  Protti.  I  feel  awful 
for  Kirsten's  parents.  I  have  a  thirteen-year-old  daughter. 
I  think  Bernadette  deserves  a  second  chance. 

James  Benning 


Other  Selected  Films 

All  films  16mm,  color  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

did  you  ever  hear  that  cricket  sound7  1971.  Black  and  white;  1  minute. 

Ode  to  Musak,  1972.  3  minutes. 

57,  1973.  7  minutes. 

Gleem,  1974.  2  minutes. 

Saturday  Night,  1975.  3  minutes 

An  Erotic  Film,  1975.  11  minutes. 

3  minutes  on  the  dangers  of  film  recording,  1975.  Black  and  white  and 

tinted;  3  minutes. 
A  to  B,  1976.  Silent;  2  minutes. 

James  Benning's  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers'  Cooperative, 
New  York. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Benning,  James    "Sound  and  Stills  from  Grand  Opera,"  October,  12 

(Spring  1980),  pp.  22-45. 
Buchsbaum,  Jonathan.  "Canvassing  the  Midwest,"  Millennium  Film 

Journal,  nos.  7,  8,  9  (Fall-Winter  1980-81),  pp.  218-29. 
Callenbach,  Ernest.   "11    x    14,"  Film  Quarterly,  31  (Spring  1978),  pp. 

53-55. 
Canby,  Vincent.  "Screen:  Mosaic  Him  &  Me."  The  New  York  Times,  April 

2,  1982,  p.  C16 
MacDonald,  Scott.  "An  Interview  with  James  Benning,"  Afterimage,  9 

(December  1981),  pp.  12-19. 
Taubin,  Amy.  "Eleven  by  Fourteen,"  Soho  News,  April  28,  1977,  p.  72. 
Ward,  Melinda.  "James  Benning,"  Design  Quarterly,  nos.  111-112  (1979), 

pp.  10-15. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

Hours 

Film  and  video  ml  or  mat  < 


Copynght  i    1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  32 
*©    The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Images  of  Culture:  The  Films  of  Trinh  T.  Minh-ha 


November  8-21,  1986 


Gallery  Talk,  Wednesday,  November  12,  following 
the  12:00  screening.  Trinh  T  Minh-ha  will  be 
present. 


Schedule 

All  films  are  16mm,  color  and  sound. 

Reassemblage,  1982.  40  minutes. 

Tuesday  at  6:30;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  12:00;  Sunday  at  1:00. 

Naked  Spaces:  Living  Is  Round,  1985.  134  minutes. 

Tuesday  at  2:00;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  2:30;  Sunday  at  3:30. 


Filming  in  Africa  means  to  many  of  us  colorful  images, 
exotic  dancers,  and  fearful  rites — the  unusual. 

(Trinh  T.  Minh-ha,  from  Reassemblage) 


Shot  in  West  Africa,  Trinh  T.  Minh-ha's  Reassemblage 
(1982)  and  Naked  Spaces:  Living  Is  Round  (1985)  chal- 
lenge the  ethnocentrism  underlying  Western  an- 
thropological studies  of  "other"  cultures.  These  studies 
are  marked  by  a  sense  of  cultural  superiority  on  the  part 
of  anthropologists.  The  content  and  structure  of  eth- 
nographic films  replicate  this  inherent  power  rela- 
tionship. Absent  from  Trinh's  films  are  the  standard 
codes  of  ethnographic  filmmaking:  "talking  heads," 
translators,  and  native  informants.  Most  important, 
there  is  no  expert  "objective"  voice  explaining,  and 
thereby  defining,  what  we  see. 


Naked  Spaces:  Living  Is  Round,  1985. 


At  the  beginning  of  Reassemblage,  which  was  shot  in 
rural  villages  in  Senegal,  Trinh  comments :  "I  do  not  want 
to  speak  about;  just  speak  nearby,"  thus  rejecting  the 
ethnographer's  role.  She  rapidly  intercuts  images  and 
sounds — though  never  in  sync — of  people,  mostly 
women,  in  various  activities:  dancing,  weaving,  bathing 
children,  tending  crops,  and  preparing  food.  Through 
this  process,  and  always  in  a  quiet  voice,  Trinh,  who  was 
born  in  Vietnam,  reflects  on  colonialism.  She  tells  stories 
about  various  Westerners,  including  a  Peace  Corps 
worker,  a  Catholic  nun,  and  an  ethnologist-ecologist 
husband-and-wife  team,  all  of  whom  display  varying 
degrees  of  insensitivity  and  unconscious  cultural  bias. 

Rather  than  merely  challenging  the  content  of  eth- 
nographic films,  Trinh's  critique  extends  to  the  cin- 
ematic language  itself.  The  richness  and  fluidity  of  the 
images  and  sounds  are  punctuated  throughout  by  jump- 
cuts,  out-of-focus  shots  and,  most  disconcerting,  long 
silent  moments,  giving  Reassemblage  an  elliptical 
quality  that  ruptures  the  filmic  flow.  Unlike  some  tradi- 
tional experimental  films  that  employ  these  techniques 
to  more  formal  ends,  the  purpose  here  is  to  keep  the 
viewer  from  being  lulled  by  the  exotic. 

These  strategies  are  also  employed  in  Naked  Spaces,  a 
more  complex  film  which,  according  to  Trinh,  explores 
the  "interaction  of  people  and  their  living  spaces."  Shot 
in  remote  areas  of  six  West  African  countries  ,  the  delib- 
erate pace  of  the  film  reflects  the  rhythms  of  daily  life  of 
the  people,  both  in  their  routine  activities  and  cere- 
monial rituals. 

A  dominant  theme  is  how  the  roundness  of  the 
houses,  of  the  domestic  utensils,  wall  paintings,  and 
sculpture  are  associated  with  the  feminine  domain,  be- 
coming physical  manifestations  of  a  female  cosmology. 
This  is  further  elaborated  by  the  commentary,  which  is 
spoken  by  three  women  with  three  distinct  modes  of 
speech  (African,  Asian,  European),  who  variously  use 
different  types  of  language — poetic,  descriptive,  nar- 
rative. As  in  Reassemblage,  the  voices  are  interwoven 
with  silence,  music,  and  natural  sound — not  to 
illustrate  the  images,  but  to  uproot  fixed  ideas  about 
how  Third  World  cultures  are  perceived  and  represented. 

Lucinda  Furlong 
Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


The  filmmaker's  place:  at  once  present  and  absent,  she 
is  constantly  on  trial.  This  has  less  to  do  with  self-crit- 
icism toward  future  improvement  than  with  self-ac- 
knowledgment with  and  within  differences.  Subjectivity 
does  not  merely  consist  of  talking  about  herself  or  of 
inserting  herself  on  the  screen;  it  is  neither  opposed  to 
objectivity  nor  equivalent  to  personality.  She  says  she  is 
subjective  because  there  is  necessarily  a  subjectivity  in 
every  objectivity.  Because  her  story  involves  history;  and 
meanings  are  not  a  given  to  uncover;  they  are  made. 
There  where  she  stands,  difference  can  never  be  essen- 
tial, since  it  is  not  synonymous  with  separatism  and 
does  not  oppose  sameness  either.  So  I/she  are  bound  to 
move  with  always  at  least  two  gestures :  that  of  affirm- 
ing "I  am  like  you,"  while  pointing  insistently  to  the 
difference;  and  that  of  reminding  "I  am  different"  while 
unsettling  every  definition  of  otherness  arrived  at. 

In  one  of  the  films,  the  word  "Directed"  is  under  era- 
sure. Crossed  out,  but  readable.  Visible  in  its  crossed- 
out  status,  hence  not  merely  erased.  The  cross,  site  of 
two  obliques  meeting,  partakes  of  the  oneness  of 
Taoist  brushstrokes:  the  free  origin  of  painting.  If  the 
stroke/cross/erasure  contains  oneness,  then  formless- 
ness is  present.  It  should  at  once  be  lively  and  balanced: 
not  too  closed  (omnipresent,  all-knowing  unitary  sub- 
ject), nor  too  opened  (illusory  counter-absence,  absolute 
pluralism). 

The  voice  of  the  film :  whether  one  voice  or  three  voices 
are  used,  the  subject  on  trial  is  a  non-unitary  subject 
who  works  at  undermining  The  Voice  of  Culture.  In  hear- 
ing the  content  of  what  is  said,  it  is  always  useful  to 
listen  also  to  the  how:  timbre,  tone  (music  is  never  inno- 
cent), cut,  suspension  of  sentence.  Three  voices  imply 
difference,  although  the  viewer  can  determine  the  de- 
gree of  this  difference.  They  do  not  work  as  opposition 
(divide  and  conquer),  for  difference  does  not  necessarily 
create  conflicts;  it  can  be  said  to  be  beyond  and 
alongside  conflict.  But  they  are  positioned  as  three,  not 
one.  Here,  the  problems  of  translation  are  foregrounded, 
and  with  them,  those  of  hegemony  in  interpretation. 
Each  voice  bears  with  it  a  discursive  or  non-discursive 
mode,  a  cultural  heritage,  a  political  context;  so  that 
even  (Western)  romanticism  has  its  place:  it  is  not  de- 
nied or  censored  but  pointed  to,  while  possibly  involving 
the  hegemony  at  work  in  the  viewer's  reading. 

The  viewer — questions  of  beauty,  reality  and  gender: 
What/How  does  he  hear  and  see?  Will  she  recognize? 
Woman,  house,  cosmos.  Dwelling  as  a  site  of  fertility,  of 
women's  activities,  of  cosmological  experience.  Her 
pace,  her  rhythm,  the  words  she  retains;  her  space,  her 
body,  her  colors,  her  designs,  her  pots,  her  calabashes, 
her  relation  to  the  earth,  her  water — life.  Life  and  art  are 
often  perceived  dualistically  as  two  mutually  exclusive 
poles.  But  there  can't  be  sound  without  silence,  light 
without  darkness,  vacant  space  without  filled  areas. 
Non-named,  half-named  so  as  to  name  what  he  silences, 
ignores  or  condemns.  Time,  for  example,  is  one  of  the 
elements  of  difference;  and  time  is  the  constant  frustra- 
tion of  foreigners  in  Africa.  Time  and  consumption  go 
together.  Shots  can  be  so  short  as  to  frustrate  the  desire 
to  appropriate  the  images;  but  the  length  of  the  film  can 


also  invite  the  viewers  either  to  invest  to  the  limits  or  to 
leave,  in  any  case  to  go  away  without  the  sense  of  having 
"digested"  Africa.  Naked  Spaces  can  end  in  many  ways: 
with  a  dance  it  started  out  with,  with  drum  music,  or 
with  a  comment  on  knowledge  by  an  African  drummer. 
For  me,  it  also  ends  with  images  of  women  forming  a 
circle,  their  arms  raised,  while  their  voices  in  chorus  take 
over  the  drumming.  Is  this  where  we  end,  continue,  or 
start? 

Trinh  T.  Minh-ha 

Biography 

Trinh  T.  Minh-ha  was  born  in  Hanoi  in  1952.  She  was  educated  first  in 
Vietnam  (which  she  left  at  the  age  of  seventeen),  then  in  the  Philip- 
pines, in  France  (Sorbonne)  and  in  the  United  States  at  the  University  of 
Illinois,  Urbana-Champaign.  There  she  studied  comparative  literature 
(M.A.,  1973,  Ph.D.,  1977),  ethnomusicology  and  music  composition 
(M.A.,  1976).  Trinh  has  traveled  and  lectured  extensively  on  film  and  on 
Third  World  feminism.  She  has  taught  French  language  and  literature  at 
the  University  of  Illinois ;  English  for  the  Ministry  of  National  Education 
in  Paris,  and  for  the  Ministry  of  Higher  Education  in  Dakar,  Senegal. 
Trinh's  films  have  been  widely  shown  in  the  United  States  and  abroad. 
She  lives  in  Berkeley,  and  teaches  in  the  Department  of  Cinema  at  San 
Francisco  State  University. 

Selected  One-Artist  Screenings 

Film  in  the  Cities,  St.  Paul,  Minnesota,  1983;  UNESCO,  Dakar,  Senegal, 
1983;  Teatro  la  Maddalena,  Rome,  1984;  National  Film  Theater,  London, 
1985;  Artists  Space,  New  York,  1986;  Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of  Mod- 
ern Art,  New  York,  1986;  Commonwealth  Institute  Arts  Centre,  London, 
1986;  Robert  Flaherty  Film  Seminar,  Wells  College,  Aurora,  New  York, 
1986;  Stanford  University,  Palo  Alto,  1986. 

Selected  Festivals 

American  Film  Institute,  Los  Angeles,  "Women  and  Movies  III,"  1983; 
Festival  dei  Popoli,  Florence,  1983;  New  York  Film  Festival,  1983;  Hong 
Kong  International  Film  Festival,  1984;  Atlanta  Third  World  Film  Fes- 
tival, 1984,  1985;  Toronto  Festival  of  Festivals,  1985;  Edinburgh  Interna- 
tional Film  Festival,  "Third  World  Cinema:  Theories  and  Practices," 
1986  (conference);  Festival  de  Films  et  Videos  de  Femmes,  Montreal, 
1986;  Festival  International  de  Films  de  Femmes,  Creteil,  France,  1986; 
International  Women's  Film  Festival  of  Jerusalem,  1986. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Penley,  Constance,  and  Andrew  Ross.  "Interview  with  Trinh  T  Minh- 
ha,"  Camera  Obscura,  13-14  (Spring-Summer  1985),  pp.  87-111. 

Trinh,  Minh-ha  T  Un  art  sans  oeuvre.  Troy,  Michigan:  International 
Book  Publishers,  1981. 

.  "Difference:  A  Special  Third  World  Women  Issue,"  Feminist 

Review  (Autumn  1986). 

.  En  minuscules  (book  of  poems).  Paris:  Editions  Saint-Germain 


< 


des-Pres,  1986. 
.  "Mechanical  Eye,  Electronic  Ear  and  the  Lure  of  Authenticity," 


Wide  Angle,  6  (Summer  1984),  pp.  58-63. 
,  and  Jean-Paul  Bourdier.  African  Spaces:  Designs  for  Living  in 


Upper  Volta.  London  and  New  York:  Holmes  &  Meier,  1985. 

Trinh  T,  Minh-ha's  films  are  distributed  by  Women  Make  Movies,  The 
Museum  of  Modern  Art,  Third  World  Newsreel,  New  York;  Women  in 
Focus,  Vancouver;  and  Circles,  London. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  "',  1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   33 
The  NewAmerican  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF    INDEPENDENT   FILM   AND   VIDEO 


Meredith  Monk 


November  26-December  21, 1986     _ 


Silver  Lake  with  Dolmen  Music,  1980 
Sound  installation.  Exhibited  continuously. 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  December  2,  at  2:30. 
Meredith  Monk  will  be  present. 


Technical  Assistance 

Ibny  Giovannetti,  lighting;  Debra  Lee  Cohen,  installation 


To  create  an  art  that  breaks  down  boundaries 
between  the  disciplines,  an  art  which  in  turn 
becomes  a  metaphor  for  opening  up  thought, 
perception,  experience. 

— Meredith  Monk 

In  recent  years  the  Film  and  Video  Department  has  ex- 
panded its  exhibition  program  to  include  film,  video,  and 
sound  installations  that  seek  to  break  down  the  tradi- 
tional demarcations  between  art  forms.  In  exploring  the 
interrelationships  between  dance,  film,  video,  and  sound, 
artists  have  created  new  aesthetic  experiences  that  draw 
upon  the  strengths  of  different  media  and  traditions. 

Meredith  Monk,  a  key  figure  in  the  Postmodern  dance 
movement,  has  been  at  the  forefront  of  this  multimedia 
activity  since  the  mid-1960s.  Monk's  films  and  videotapes, 
such  as  Quarry  (1975)  and  TurrJe  Dreams  (Waltz)  (1983), 
which  were  presented  by  the  Film  and  Video  Department 
in  1985,  demonstrate  her  ability  to  translate  into  film  and 
video  the  strong  imagery  of  her  choreography,  the  visual 
character  of  her  staged  tableaux,  and  her  musical  scores. 
She  achieves  this  not  by  simply  recording  her  perfor- 
mances, by  forcing  them  into  the  constraints  of  the  film- 
video  medium,  or  by  duplicating  conventional  cinematic 
strategies.  Rather,  she  evokes  the  character  of  her  live 
performances  by  treating  the  illusionistic  space  of  film  and 
videotape  as  another  kind  of  stage. 

Silver  Lake  with  Dolmen  Music  (1980)  is  an  installation 
that  juxtaposes  Monk's  visual  aesthetic  with  her  powerful 
sound  compositions.  Derived  in  part  from  Dolmen  Music, 
a  five-movement  performance  piece,  the  work  employs 
male  and  female  voices,  together  with  musical  instru- 
ments, to  conjure  up  a  powerful  aural  experience.  The 
mysterious  atmosphere  created  by  the  music/voice  com- 
position evokes  the  primal  emergence  of  the  human  life 
cycle  through  the  opposition  of  female  and  male  voices 
that  call  out  the  ecstasies  and  pains  of  human  existence. 
Monk  included  Dolmen  Music  in  her  opera  Recent  Ruins, 
first  performed  in  1980  at  La  Mama,  New  York.  Recent 
Ruins  has  been  called  an  "anthropological  spectacle" 


The  Meredith  Monk  Vocal  Ensemble  performing  Dolmen  Music,  the 
prologue  to  Recent  Ruins,  La  Mama  Annex,  New  York,  1979.  Photograph 
by  Nat  Tileston. 


since  it  appears  to  unearth  time  and  experiences  from 
other  worlds  of  the  past. 

Upon  entering  the  Film  and  Video  Gallery,  one  sees  a 
circle  of  chairs  and  rocks  surrounding  a  silver-coated  sur- 
face which,  through  dramatic  lighting,  resembles  a  shim- 
mering pool.  This  arrangement  is  a  reproduction  of  the 
original  set.  Suspended  from  the  ceiling  are  headphones 
through  which  one  listens  to  Dolmen  Music  while  seated 
in  the  chairs  that  were  originally  occupied  by  the  perform- 
ers. Here  the  artist  has  shaped  the  space  to  the  sound  to 
fashion  an  environment  both  visual  and  auditory,  public 
and  private.  As  one  walks  around  the  installation  it  be- 
comes a  mysterious  prehistoric  site;  sitting  around  the 
pool,  we  enter  into  the  imaginary  landscape  via  the  music. 
By  occupying  the  seats  of  the  actual  performers,  we  then 
become  silent  participants  in  the  piece.  In  Silver  Lake  with 
Dolmen  Music,  Monk  has  created  a  visual  metaphor  for  an 
ancient  past,  which  becomes  a  compelling  new  percep- 
tual and  aesthetic  experience. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


In  October  1977,  on  a  day  off  from  performing  at  the 
Maison  de  la  Culture  in  Rennes,  France,  a  number  of  us 
drove  into  the  countryside  to  find  the  legendary  "Roches 
aux  Fees" — a  series  of  rocks  forming  a  huge  table,  or 
dolmen,  approximately  fifteen  feet  wide,  forty  feet  long 
and  twelve  feet  high.  In  the  middle  of  the  farmland,  sud- 
denly we  saw  them — enormous  rocks — overwhelming  in 
density  and  power.  We  got  out  of  the  car  and  spent  a 
number  of  hours  there.  When  I  returned  to  New  York  I 
started  writing  some  music.  In  the  middle  of  the  working 
process,  the  image  of  those  huge  rocks  kept  coming  to 
mind.  I  ended  up  calling  the  finished  piece  Dolmen  Music. 

Environment  has  always  played  a  large  role  in  my  work. 
In  the  late  1960s  and  early  1970s,  dissatisfied  with  the 
traditional  audience-performer  relationship,  I  made  pieces 
in  which  the  performers  were  still,  or  situated  in  a  limited 
area,  and  the  audience  moved  from  one  "exhibit"  to  an- 
other. This  allowed  the  audience  varying  perspectives  on 
the  events  instead  of  always  looking  from  one  vantage 
point  (usually  from  a  distance).  From  the  middle  1970s 
until  today,  I  have  incorporated  constantly  changing  scale, 
time  compression,  and  varying  viewpoints  into  the  pieces 
themselves — placing  the  members  of  the  audience  in  a 
seating  area,  but  usually  in  an  environment  which  in- 
cludes them  in  the  overall  visual,  aural,  and  tactile  fabric  of 
the  piece. 

Silver  Lake  with  Dolmen  Music  is  an  installation  version 
of  the  prologue  of  Recent  Ruins,  an  opera  I  composed  in 
1979.  In  the  performance  piece,  six  singers  (three  men, 
three  women,  one  of  the  men  also  playing  a  cello)  sit  in  a 
circle  on  silver  chairs  singing  Dolmen  Music  on  a  silver 
mylar  oval.  During  the  opera,  the  oval  remains  constant  in 
form  but  becomes  a  lake,  a  mirror,  a  boat,  and  a  planet  as 
the  piece  progresses  from  section  to  section.  Recent  Ruins 
deals  with  the  strata  of  time — the  comparatively  recent 
emergence  of  humankind  in  the  long  evolution  of  the 
earth,  and  the  irony  of  archaeology. 

Meredith  Monk 


Biography 

Meredith  Monk  has  created  more  than  fifty  works  in  music,  theater,  dance, 
film,  and  video  since  1964.  A  graduate  of  Sarah  Lawrence  College,  Bronx- 
ville,  New  York,  she  has  received  numerous  grants,  among  them  two 
Guggenheim  Fellowships  (1972,  1982).  She  has  won  Obie  Awards  for 
Outstanding  Achievement  for  Vessel:  An  Opera  Epic  (1971)  and  for  Quarry. 
An  Opera  (1976),  as  well  as  Villager  Awards  for  Outstanding  Production  for 
Recent  Ruins:  An  Opera  (1979)  and  7lirtJe  Dreams:  Cabaret  (1983).  Other 
awards  include  a  Bessie  for  Sustained  Creative  Achievement,  the  1986 
National  Music  Theater  Award,  and  fifteen  ASCAP  Awards  for  musical 
composition  Dolmen  Music  won  the  German  Critics  Prize  for  Best  Record 
of  1981.  In  1968  Monk  founded  The  House  Foundation  for  the  Arts,  a 
company  dedicated  to  an  interdisciplinary  approach  to  performance,  and 
in  1978  formed  the  Meredith  Monk  Vocal  Ensemble.  Monk  and  her  com- 
panies have  toured  extensively  throughout  the  United  States  and  abroad. 
She  lives  and  works  in  New  York. 


Site-Specific  Works 

Blueprint,  1967,  Judson  Memorial  Church,  New  York. 

Juice:  A  Theater  Cantata,  1969,  The  Solomon  R.  Guggenheim  Museum, 

New  York. 
Needlebrain  Lloyd  and  the  Systems  Kid:  A  Live  Movie,  1970,  Connecticut 

College,  New  London. 


Vessei.  An  Opera  Epic,  1971,  The  House  Gallery,  New  York. 
Education  of  the  Girlchild:  An  Opera,  1973,  Common  Ground  Theater, 

New  York. 
Anthology  and  Small  Scroll,  1974,  St.  Mark's  in  the  Bowery,  New  York. 
Quarry,  1976,  La  Mama  Annex,  New  York. 
The  Travelogue  Series:  Pahs  /Chacon  /Venice  /Milan,  1972-76,  in 

collaboration  with  Ping  Chong,  The  House,  New  York. 
The  Plateau  Series,  1978,  St.  Mark's  in  the  Bowery,  New  York. 
Recent  Ruins,  1979,  La  Mama  Annex,  New  York. 

Specimen  Days:  A  Civil  War  Opera,  1981,  The  Public  Theater,  New  York. 
Turtle  Dreams:  Cabaret,  1983,  Plexus,  New  York. 
The  Games,  1983,  in  collaboration  with  Ping  Chong,  Schaubuhne  am 

Lehniner  Platz,  West  Berlin. 
Acts  from  Under  and  Above,  1986,  La  Mama  Annex,  New  York. 

Works  Performed  in  Theaters  or  Proscenium  Spaces 

Break,  1964,  Washington  Square  Galleries,  New  York. 

Cartoon,  1965,  Judson  Memorial  Church,  New  York. 

The  Beach,  1965,  Hardware  Poets'  Playhouse,  New  York. 

Radar,  1965,  Judson  Hall,  New  York. 

Blackboard,  1965,  Judson  Hall,  New  York. 

Relache,  1965.  Judson  Hall,  New  York. 

Portable,  1966,  Judson  Memorial  Church,  New  York. 

36  Millimeter  Earrings,  1966,  Judson  Memorial  Church,  New  York. 

Our  Lady  of  Late,  1973,  Town  Hall,  New  York. 

Music  Concert  with  Film,  1981,  City  Center,  New  York. 

Carnegie  Hall  Concert,  1985,  Carnegie  Hall,  New  York. 

Disco  graphy 

Candy  Bullets  and  Moon,  1967.  Single,  out  of  print,  re-released  on  Better 

an  Old  Demon  Than  a  New  God,  Giomo  Poetry  Systems  records,  1984, 

GPS  033. 
Key,  1970.  Increase  Records,  re-released  on  Lovely  Music  Ltd.,  1977, 

LML  1051. 
Our  Lady  of  Late,  The  Vanguard  Tapes,  1973;  Wergo,  1986,  LP  SM  1058. 
Our  Lady  of  Late,  1974.  Minona  Records,  out  of  print. 
Rally,  Procession,  on  Airwaves,  1977.  one  ten  records,  OT001/2. 
Biography,  on  Big  Ego,  1978.  Giomo  Poetry  Systems  Records, 
LP  GPS  012-013. 
Dolmen  Music,  1981.  ECM/Warner  Bros.,  record  ECM  1 1197,  cassette 

ECM  M5E  1197. 
7urtVe  Dreams,  1983.  ECM/Warner  Bros.,  record  ECM  1240,  cassette 

ECM  4-23792. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Banes,  Sally.  "Meredith  Monk:  Homemade  Metaphors."  In  Terpsichore 

in  Sneakers:  Post-Modem  Dance.  Boston:  Houghton  Mifflin  Company, 

1980,  pp.  148-65. 
Berger,  Mark.  "Meredith  Monk:  A  Metamorphic  Theater."  Artforum,  11 

(May  1973),  pp.  60-63. 
Jowitt,  Deborah.  "Even  the  Bushes  Are  Not  to  Be  Trusted:  Meredith 

Monk's  Vessel."  In  Deborah  Jowitt,  ed.,  Dance  Beat:  Selected  Views 

and  Reviews  1967-1976.  New  York:  Marcel  Dekker,  1977,  p.  141. 
Marranca,  Bonnie.  "Meredith  Monk's  Recent  Rums,  The  Archeology  of 

Consciousness:  Essaying  Images."  Performing  Arts  Journal,  4  (Spring 

1980),  pp.  39-49. 
Sterntt,  David.  "Notes:  Meredith  Monk."  San  Francisco  Symphony 

program  notes,  January  29,  1982. 
Westwater,  Angela.  "Meredith  Monk:  An  Introduction."  Artforum,  11 

(May  1973),  pp.  57-59. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
lay  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-053' 


Copynght  «'  1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  34 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS   OF    INDEPENDENT   FILM   AND   VIDEO 


The  Black  Woman  Independent:  Representing  Race  and  Gender 


December  30- January  16,  1987 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  January  8,  following  the 
12:00  screening.  Valerie  Smith  will  be  present. 


Special  thanks  to  the  Black  Filmmaker  Foundation,  Third  World 
Newsreel,  and  the  Black  Film  Center  Archive,  Indiana  University, 
Bloomington,  for  their  assistance  in  the  preparation  of  this  exhibition. 

All  films  are  16mm,  sound,  except  where  otherwise  noted. 

Program  I.  The  Politics  of  Domestic  Relations 

Your  Children  Come  Back  to  You,  1979,  Alile  Sharon  Larkrn,  black  and 
white,  27  min.;  A  Mother  Is  a  Mother,  1982,  Lyn  Blum  and  Cynthia 
Ealey,  videotape,  color,  27  min.;  A  Minor  Altercation,  1977,  Jackie 
Shearer,  color,  30  min.;  Suzanne,  Suzanne,  1982,  Camille  Billops,  black 
and  white,  26  min. 

Program  II.  Power  and  Creativity:  Black  Women  Working 

Illusions,  1982,  Julie  Dash,  color,  34  min.;  Grey  Area,  1982,  Monona  Wall, 
black  and  white,  40  min.;  Fannies  Film,  1981,  Fronza  Woods,  black  and 
white,  15  min. ;  Gotta  Make  This  Journey:  Sweet  Honey  in  the  Rock. 
1983,  Michelle  Parkerson,  videotape,  color,  58  mm. 

Program  III.  Race  and  the  Social  Construction  of  Gender 

Hair  Piece:  A  Film  for  Nappyheaded  People,  1982,  Ayoka  Chenzira,  color, 
10  mm.;  A  Different  Image,  1982,  Alile  Sharon  Larkin,  color,  51  mm.;  Four 
Women,  1978,  Julie  Dash,  color,  7  mm.;  J  Be  Done  Been  Was  Is,  1984, 
Debra  Robmson,  color,  58  mm. 


The  history  of  the  representation  of  black  women  in  Hol- 
lywood films  is  a  narrative  of  absences.  When  cast  in  the 
manner  of  Louise  Beavers  or  Hattie  McDaniel  as  the  ubiq- 
uitous servant,  selfless,  faultless,  and  uncomplaining, 
black  women  were  portrayed  as  creatures  devoid  of  desire. 
When,  like  Dorothy  Dandridge,  they  were  cast  as  sirens  of 
sexuality,  they  embodied  desire  but  lacked  other  features 
of  character  or  personality.  Singers,  dancers,  and  musi- 
cians like  Lena  Home,  Katherine  Dunham,  and  Hazel 
Scott,  who  made  their  way  to  film  from  nightclubs  and 
concert  halls,  were  denied  integral  dramatic  roles.  On 
screen  they  sang,  danced,  and  played  piano  as  them- 
selves, in  scenes  that  could  be  cut  easily  out  of  deference 
to  less-than-liberal  audiences.  Although  in  isolated  cases 
independent  and  studio-financed  films  of  the  sixties  and 
seventies  provided  black  actresses  with  opportunities  for 
substantial,  resonant  roles,  the  emergent  black  women 
independent  filmmakers  and  video  artists  of  the  late  sev- 
enties and  eighties  have  assumed  primary  responsibility 
for  granting  centrality  to  the  voices  and  experiences  of 
black  women.  These  directors  and  producers  take  for  their 
perspectives  on  domestic  relations,  politics,  history,  and 
contemporary  culture  characters  who  once  served  as  little 
more  than  markers  of  empty  space. 

The  artists  presented  here  share  a  variety  of  concerns 
with  the  wider  community  of  feminist  film  and  video  art- 


Your  Children  Come  Back  to  You,  1979  Alile  Sharon  Larkin. 


ists.  As  the  conjunction  of  works  in  Program  I  suggests, 
several  of  them  explore  in  their  productions  the  complex- 
ity of  the  mother-daughter  bond,  a  connection  that  has 
acquired  increasing  significance  for  feminists  in  a  variety 
of  disciplines  as  the  most  formative  relationship  in  the 
lives  of  women.  As  critic-theorist  Marianne  Hirsch  writes: 
"There  can  be  no  systematic  and  theoretical  study  of 
women  in  patriarchal  culture,  there  can  be  no  theory  of 
women's  oppression,  that  does  not  take  into  account 
woman's  role  as  a  mother  of  daughters  and  as  a  daughter 
of  mothers,  that  does  not  study  female  identity  in  relation 
to  previous  and  subsequent  generations  of  women,  and 
that  does  not  study  that  relationship  in  the  wider  context 
in  which  it  takes  place:  the  emotional,  political,  economic, 
and  symbolic  structures  of  family  and  society  Any  full 
study  of  mother-daughter  relationships,  in  whatever  field, 
is  by  definition  both  feminist  and  interdisciplinary." 

Black  women  independent  film  and  video  artists  also 
search  for  the  enduring,  political  implications  of  the  kinds 
of  private,  domestic  relationships  that  the  mainstream  has 
trivialized  or  ignored.  And  the  experimental  quality  of 
much  of  the  work  calls  into  question  the  assumptions  and 
formal  conventions  of  narrative  and  documentary  films 
and  videotapes.  Yet  they  bring  to  these  feminist  concerns 
a  cultural  specificity  that  derives  from  their  particular  ra- 
cial and  national  position.  Their  work  thus  incorporates 
the  critique  of  patriarchy  and  the  examination  of  women's 
lives  into  an  exploration  and  representation  of  black 
cultural  practices  and  rituals. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  the  New  York  State  Council 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Your  Children  Come  Back  to  You  literalizes  the  meaning 
of  a  "mother  country"  by  means  of  the  story  of  a  young  girl, 
Tovi,  torn  between  two  surrogate  mothers :  one  comfort- 
ably bourgeois,  the  other  nationalist.  Naturalistically  the 
film  considers  the  psychological  and  emotional  bond  be- 
tween mothers  and  daughters ;  symbolically,  it  probes  the 
black  American's  cultural  situation.  This  thematic  jux- 
taposition is  mirrored  in  the  crosscutting  from  Tovi's  story 
to  a  dream  sequence  and  to  the  child's  version  of  an 
allegorical  tale — African  resonances  that  interrupt  and 
counterpoint  the  surface  narrative. 

A  Mother  Is  a  Mother  and  A  Minor  Altercation  are  impor- 
tant works  that  draw  their  titles  from  expressions  so  famil- 
iar that  they  appear  to  trivialize  their  subject  matter.  The 
former,  a  videotape  funded  in  part  by  The  Child  Care 
Resource  Center,  predates  much  of  the  recent  literature  on 
the  pathology  of  unwed  mothers  but  responds  to  it  power- 
fully nevertheless.  Through  their  responses  to  the  inter- 
viewers, seven  black  unwed  mothers  (and  some  of  their 
own  mothers)  display  their  ability  to  control  and  name 
their  experience  with  resourcefulness,  imagination,  and 
humor.  A  Minor  Altercation  is  a  fiction  film  set  in  motion  by 
a  fight  between  two  teenage  girls,  one  black  and  one 
white,  in  a  newly  integrated  public  high  school  in  racially 
troubled  Somerville,  Massachusetts.  The  film  cuts  back 
and  forth  from  one  family  to  the  other  to  reveal  the  rever- 
berations of  the  girls'  consequent  suspensions  from 
school.  The  similarities  and  differences  between  jux- 
taposed scenes  comment  upon  the  status  of  education  in 
black  and  ethnic  working-class  households  and  suggest 
continuities  in  the  mother-daughter  bond  that  transcend 
racial  difference. 

Suzanne,  Suzanne  is  a  harrowing  documentary  that  ex- 
amines the  potential  for  violence  and  abuse  that  underlies 
the  carefully  tended  facade  of  middle-class  respectability. 
The  film  opens  with  familiar  footage  from  home  movies 
and  snapshots  from  family  albums.  Through  conversa- 
tions with  the  protagonist  and  her  relatives,  the  filmmaker 
dismantles  these  touchstones  of  stability.  What  began  as 
a  film  about  drug  abuse  actually  becomes  the  occasion  for 
mother  and  daughter  to  re-make  their  relationship  as  they 
confront  their  experience  of  an  abusive  husband  and 
father. 

The  films  in  Program  II  examine  the  politics  and 
creativity  of  black  women's  work.  Illusions  by  Julie  Dash 
and  Grey  Area  by  Monona  Wali  are  self-reflexive  films 
about  black  women  filmmakers.  Dash's  film  illustrates  the 
conflicting  loyalties  and  affinities  that  beset  black  women 
in  the  workplace.  The  story  of  Mignon  Dupree,  Hollywood 
studio  executive  who  passes  for  white,  Illusions  is  replete 
with  images  of  people  and  practices  that  are  not  what 
they  appear  to  be.  Grey  Area  centers  on  an  independent 
filmmaker  torn  between  her  own  political,  creative  vision, 
the  demands  of  the  men  who  constitute  the  subject  of  her 
film,  and  the  expectations  of  the  corporation  that  funds 
her  work.  The  self-conscious  open-endedness  of  the  final 
frames  of  both  works  reveals  the  irresolvability  of  the 
issues  they  raise. 

Fannie's  Film  concerns  a  black  domestic  who  cleans  a 
Manhattan  dance  and  exercise  studio  for  a  living.  No 
longer  the  cipher  in  someone  else's  story,  the  maid  here  is 
both  narrator  and  subject.  Her  voice  provides  the  back- 


ground for  scenes  both  of  her  working  and  the  dancers' 
working  out;  she  names  not  only  what  she  does  but  also 
what  they  do.  The  film  ends  with  a  slow-motion  sequence 
in  which  the  protagonist  wipes  a  mirror  with  a  grand 
sweeping  movement.  Her  gestures  assume  the  grace- 
fulness of  a  dance ;  narrative  and  visuals  alike  display  the 
creativity  of  the  kind  of  black  woman  whom  the  media  has 
caricatured  or  silenced. 

Gotta  Make  This  Journey  centers  on  the  relationship 
between  art  and  politics  in  the  lives,  work  and  perfor- 
mances of  the  members  of  Sweet  Honey  in  the  Rock,  the 
black  women's  a  cappella  group.  Concert  footage  and 
statements  by  the  singers  about  the  place  of  work  in  their 
lives  reveal  the  radical  potential  of  the  women's  creativity; 
the  subversive  dimension  of  their  art  is  authorized  further 
by  the  interspersed  comments  of  other  activists. 

The  films  in  Program  HI  take  as  their  subject  alternative 
ways  in  which  black  women  might  be  viewed  in  contem- 
porary culture.  In  each  instance,  formal  experimentation 
accompanies  thematic  innovation.  Hair  Piece:  A  Film  for 
Nappyheaded  People  interweaves  paintings,  collage,  line 
drawings,  still  photographs,  song,  and  humorous  text  in 
an  animated  satire  on  black  hair-care  devices  and  prod- 
ucts. A  Different  Image  tells  the  story  of  a  young  woman 
who  refuses  to  be  perceived  as  the  object  of  male  erotic 
desire  and  who  models  her  behavior  and  dress  on  images 
of  women  encountered  in  African  ritual  and  art.  These 
alternatives  are  presented  in  filmic  collages  of  crosscut 
still  photographs.  Four  Women  is  an  experimental  dance 
film  set  to  the  ballad  of  the  same  name  written  and  sung 
by  Nina  Simone.  The  stages  of  the  dance  recapitulate  the 
varieties  of  the  black  woman's  experience  in  America.  The 
final  film,  I  Be  Done  Been  Was  Is,  locates  historically  the 
work  of  four  contemporary  black  comediennes.  By  explor- 
ing issues  of  voice  and  power,  the  film  speculates  on  the 
under- representation  of  black  women  in  the  field  of  stand- 
up  comics.  The  extensive  footage  of  each  comedienne  in 
performance  inscribes  her  more  securely  in  a  place  pre- 
viously denied  her  in  public  media.  ,  7  .  _  ... 
y                          *  Valene  Smith 

Guest  Curator 

Selected  Bibliography 

Bogle,  Donald.  Brown  Sugar.  New  York:  Harmony  Books,  1980. 
Boseman,  Keith.  "Ayoka  Chenzira:  Sharing  the  Empowerment  of 

Women  "  Black  Film  Review,  2  (Summer  1986),  pp.  18-19,  25 
Brunsdon,  Charlotte.  Films  for  Women.  London:  British  Film  Institute, 

1986. 
Hirsch,  Marianne.  "Mothers  and  Daughters:  A  Review  Essay"  Signs,  7 

(Autumn  1981),  pp.  200-22. 
Hooks,  Bell.  "Black  Women  Filmmakers  Break  the  Silence."  Black  Film 

Review,  2  (Summer  1986),  pp.  14-15. 
Ogunyemi,  Cmkwenye  Okonjo.  "Womarusm:  The  Dynamics  of  the 

Contemporary  Black  Female  Novel  in  English."  Signs,  11  (Autumn 

1985),  pp.  63-80. 
Wall,  Monona.  "LA.  Black  Filmmakers  Thrive  Despite  Hollywood's 

Monopoly"  Black  Film  Review,  2  (Summer  1986),  pp.  10,  27. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  0  1986  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  35 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND   VIDEO 


Before  Hollywood: 

Ttirn-of-the-Century  Film  from  American  Archives 


January  25-February  28,  1987 

Guest  Curators :  Jay  Leyda  and  Charles  Musser 


Panel  Discussion,  Sunday,  February  1,  at  12:30, 
with  Eileen  Bowser,  Jay  Leyda,  Brooks  McNamara, 
Charles  Musser,  and  Tom  Gunning,  panel  chair. 


=») 


The  close  of  the  nineteenth  century  marked  the  emer- 
gence of  two  powerful  forms  of  discourse.  The  first  was 
the  development,  in  America,  France,  Germany,  and  Great 
Britain,  of  the  film,  camera,  and  projector  technologies 
that  together  produced  the  first  motion  pictures  in  1895. 
Four  years  later  in  Vienna,  Sigmund  Freud  completed  his 
text  for  The  Interpretation  of  Dreams,  which  was  pub- 
lished in  1900. 

There  are  a  number  of  reasons  to  relate  these  two  inci- 
dents in  an  introduction  to  Before  Hollywood:  Turn-of-the- 
Century  Film  from  American  Archives,  a  survey  of  Amer- 
ican cinema  from  1895  to  1915.  The  cinema  fulfilled  the 
centuries-long  search  for  a  mechanical  means  for  record- 
ing and  interpreting  the  world  around  us.  While  the  cin- 
ema represented  the  illusion  of  reality,  psychoanalysis 
opened  up  the  hidden  world  of  the  unconscious  through 
another  means  of  interpretation — dreams.  How  Western 
culture  imagined  and  perceived  itself  was  to  be  pro- 
foundly affected  by  these  two  developments.  Further- 
more, modernism,  the  ruling  paradigm  of  the  twentieth 
century,  was  to  be  profoundly  influenced  both  by  the  cin- 
ema and  psychoanalysis.  Cinematography  assumed  the 
burden  of  mimesis,  the  representation  of  the  illusion  of 
reality,  while  psychoanalysis  revealed  the  imaginary  realm 
of  the  unconscious  and  the  meaning  of  daily  life  within 
new  symbolic  codes.  Thus  art,  literature,  theater,  and  mu- 
sic could  explore  new  territories  of  image-making  that 
were  to  fundamentally  and  radically  revise  the  realist  and 
figurative  basis  of  previous  art. 

On  another,  more  speculative,  level  we  can  relate  the 
cinema  to  psychoanalysis  in  the  context  of  narrative  and 
the  need  to  organize  and  interpret  the  world.  The  photo- 
graphic image  was  seen  as  a  mirror,  instantly  functioning 
as  a  fragment,  a  memory  of  the  past.  The  motion  picture 
image  gives  life  to  the  still  photograph ;  it  becomes  a  kind 
of  conscious  dream  where  the  logic  of  reality  can  be  re- 
shaped. Thus  the  first  years  of  the  cinema  constitute  an 
"archeology  of  dreams,"  the  exploration  of  new  possi- 
bilities for  narrative  through  the  imaginary  and  recorded 
image. 

The  apparatus  of  the  cinema  produced  an  ever- expand- 
ing imaginary  discourse  of  meanings  in  its  first  decades. 


What  Happened  on  Twenty-third  Street,  New  York  City,  1901. 
Photograph  by  Patrick  G.  Loughney. 

The  variety  of  genres  and  subgenres  represented  in  Before 
Hollywood  have  been  lost  from  public  and  scholarly  view. 
Thus  before  the  institutionalization  of  the  cinema  within 
the  corporate  capitalism  of  Hollywood's  "Dream  Factory," 
film  pioneers  tested  narrative  devices  and  framed  reality 
in  ways  that  did  not  conform  to  the  narrative  codes  of 
representation  that  ultimately  comprised  the  cinema  of 
mass  appeal.  Newly  restored  to  their  original  form,  these 
films  reveal  interesting  relationships  to  the  surrealist  and 
structuralist  avant-garde  cinemas  of  this  century.  Both  the 
modernist  and  the  early  cinema  explored  the  direct  cam- 
era point  of  view  through  the  phenomenon  of  movement 
and  framing  of  action.  More  specifically,  the  surrealist  film 
shared  with  the  early  cinema  an  interest  in  magic,  trick, 
animation,  and  chase  films,  and  such  strategies  as  ellip- 
tical narratives  and  fragmentary  events  placed  within  the 
real  world.  The  later  structuralist  cinema's  interest  in  for- 
mal issues,  the  self-reflexive  use  of  the  camera  and  other 
cinematic  strategies,  recalls  the  techniques  employed  in 
early  documentaries  and  travelogues. 

This  investigation  of  the  origins  of  the  cinema  posits  the 
beginning  of  a  historical  revision  that  perceives  this  early 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Winning  an  Heiress,  1911.  Photograph  by  Patrick  G.  Loughney. 


Program  II:  Pleasures  and  Pitfalls 

February  1-7 

Sunday  at  3:00;  Tuesday  at  1:30,  4:00,  and  6:15; 

Wednesday-Saturday  at  11:30  and  2:00 

Interior  N.Y.  Subway,  14th  Street  to  42nd  Street,  1905;  Coneylsland 
at  Night,  1905;  The  Hold-up  of  the  Rocky  Mountain  Express,  1906; 
The  Miller's  Daughter,  1905;  Getting  Evidence,  1906;  Photograph- 
ing a  Female  Crook,  1904;  The  Black  Hand,  1906;  Terrible  led,  1907; 
Foui  Play  or  a  False  Friend,  1906;  The  Thieving  Hand,  1908;  The 
Unwritten  Law:  A  Thrilling  Drama  Based  on  the  Thaw-White  Case, 
1907;  Three  American  Beauties,  1906.  83  minutes. 

Program  III:  America  in  Transition 

February  8-14 

Sunday  at  3:00;  Tuesday  at  1:30,  3:45,  and  6:00; 

Wednesday-Saturday  at  11:30  and  2:30 

First  Mail  Delivery  by  Aeroplane,  1911;  Ancient  Tbmples  of  Egypt, 
1912;  Princess  Nicotine  or  the  Smoke  Fairy,  1909;  A  Tin-Type  Ro- 
mance, 1910;  A  Friendly  Marriage,  1911;  The  Usurer,  1910;  Winning 
an  Heiress,  1911;  The  Dream,  1911;  The  Informer,  1912.  103  minutes. 


(I 


work  not  as  primitive  and  marginal,  but  as  powerful  and 
inventive.  These  films  offer  a  rich  potential  for  examining 
the  larger  issues  of  cultural  analysis  and  interpretation. 
Thus  contemporary  theories  of  interpretation  such  as  de- 
construction,  which  are  rethinking  traditional  narrative 
strategies,  will  benefit  from  the  newly  discovered  and 
restored  films  shown  in  Before  Hollywood.  In  the  cata- 
logue accompanying  this  exhibition,  Jay  Leyda  and 
Charles  Musser,  along  with  other  contributors,  have  made 
a  major  first  step  in  the  writing  of  film  history  and  in 
placing  this  early  material  within  larger  critical  and 
cultural  frameworks. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Program  IV:  Domestic  Life 

February  15-21 

Sunday  at  3:00;  Tuesday  at  1:30  and  5:30; 

Wednesday-Saturday  at  11:30  and  2:30 

The  Old  Actor,  1912;  The  Passer-by,  1912;  The  Water  Nymph,  1912; 
One  Is  Business,  the  Other  Is  Crime,  1912;  How  Men  Propose,  1913;  A 
House  Divided,  1913;  The  Vampire,  1913.  125  minutes. 

Program  V:  The  Frontier  Spirit 

February  22-28 

Sunday  at  3:00;  Tuesday  at  6:00;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  11:30 

Maiden  and  Men,  1912;  The  Ruse,  1915;  A  Girl  of  the  Golden  West, 
1915.  102  minutes. 

Program  VI:  Love  and  Misadventure 

February  24-28 

Tuesday  at  1:30;  Wednesday-Saturday  at  2:30 

Dreamy  Dud:  He  Resolves  Not  to  Smoke,  1915;  Who  Pays?  Episode 
Seven:  "Blue  Blood  and  Yellow,"  1915;  Young  Romance,  1915.  127 
minutes. 


< 


Program  I:  An  Age  of  Innocence 

January  25-31 

Sunday  at  3:00;  Tuesday  at  1:30,  4:00,  and  6:30; 

Wednesday-Saturday  at  11:30  and  2:00 

Annabelle  Butterfly  Dance,  1895;  Annabelle  Serpentine  Dance, 
1895;  Fire  Rescue,  1894;  Shooting  the  Chutes,  1896;  Market  Square, 
Harrisburg,  Pa.,  1897;  Railway  Station  Scene,  1897;  The  Passion  Play 
of  Oberammergau,  1898;  The  Battle  of  Manila  Bay,  1898;  Soldiers  at 
Play,  1898;  Raising  Old  Glory  over  Morro  Castle,  1899;  Blackton 
Sketching  Edison,  1896;  Burglar  on  the  Roof,  1898;  A  Visit  to  the 
Spiritualist,  1899;  The  Tramp's  Dream,  1899;  Searching  Ruins  on 
Broadway,  Galveston,  for  Dead  Bodies,  1900;  Scenes  of  the 
Wreckage  from  the  Waterfront,  1900;  Beheading  the  Chinese  Pris- 
oner, 1900;  How  They  Rob  Men  in  Chicago,  1900;  An  Unexpected 
Knockout,  1901;  He  Forgot  His  Umbrella,  1901;  A  Mighty  Tumble, 
1901;  Next.',  1903;  Smashing  a  Jersey  Mosquito,  1902;  The  Burning 
of  Durland's  Riding  Academy,  1902;  Electrocuting  an  Elephant, 
1903 ;  What  Happened  on  Twenty  third  Street,  New  York  City.  1901 ; 
Trapeze  Disrobing  Act,  1901;  What  Happened  in  the  Tunnel,  1903; 
The  Story  the  Biograph  Told,  1904;  Pull  Down  the  Curtains,  Suzie, 
1904;  Meet  Me  at  the  Fountain,  1904;  Rube  and  Mandy  at  Coney 
Island,  1903;  European  Rest  Cure,  1904,  The  Strenuous  Life  or  Anti- 
Race  Suicide,  1904;  The  Suburbanite.  1904.  70  minutes. 


Before  Hollywood  was  organized  by  The  American  Federation  of 
Arts  and  is  sponsored  at  the  Whitney  Museum  by  the  Arthur  Ross 
Foundation. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


' 


Copynght  '    1987  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  36 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Social  Engagement:  Women's  Video 


March  3-20, 1987 


Program  I:  Their  or  Drink,  1984,  Vanalyne  Green,  20  minutes;  Secret 
Sounds  Screaming:  The  Sexual  Abuse  of  Children,  1986,  Ayoka 
Chenzira,  30  minutes;  Scenes  from  the  Micro  War,  1985,  Sherry 
Millner,  24  minutes. 

Program  II:  Freedom  of  Information  Tape  1:  Jean  Seberg,  1980,  Margia 
Kramer,  18  minutes;  Joan  Braderman  Reads  The  National  Enquirer, 
1983,  Paper  Tiger  Television.  28  minutes;  A  Simple  Case  for  Torture,  Or 
How  to  Sleep  at  Night,  1983,  Martha  Rosier,  60  minutes. 

Program  m,  part  1:  Just  Because  of  Who  We  Are,  1986,  Hera  Media.  27 
minutes;  Gotta  Make  This  Journey:  Sweet  Honey  in  the  Rock,  1983, 
Michelle  Parkerson,  58  minutes. 

Program  in,  part  2:  Sign  on  a  Truck,  1984,  Jenny  Holzer,  15  minutes;  The 
Trial  of  Tilted  Arc,  1985,  Shu  Lea  Cheang,  52  minutes. 

Program  IV:  Women  of  Steel,  1985,  Mon  Valley  Media,  28  minutes; 

Serafina  Bathrick  Reads  Working  Woman,  1983,  Paper  Tiger  Television, 
28  minutes;  The  Maids!,  1985,  Munel  Jackson,  28  minutes. 


In  the  early  1970s,  videotapes  such  as  Julie  Gustaf son's 
The  Politics  of  Intimacy,  Cara  de  Vito's  Ama  L'Uomo  Tuo 
(Always  Love  Your  Man),  and  Nancy  Cain's  Harriet  vali- 
dated female  experience  through  personal  testimony — a 
central  concern  of  the  burgeoning  women's  movement.1 
The  realist  techniques  used  in  these  early  documentary 
tapes  paralleled  the  rise  of  consciousness-raising  groups, 
with  their  emphasis  on  sharing  real  life  experiences. 

By  the  late  1970s,  women  artists  took  more  analytical 
approaches  to  video  through  performance  and  experi- 
mental narrative.  Martha  Rosier,  in  particular,  in  Domina- 
tion and  the  Everyday  and  Vital  Statistics  of  a  Citizen, 
Simply  Obtained  dealt  with  issues  of  representation  and 
the  relationship  between  patriarchy  and  other  forms  of 
oppression. 

This  exhibition  focuses  on  those  videotapes  that  are 
informed  by  a  critical  understanding  and  an  analysis  of 
contemporary  issues.  About  half  of  the  tapes  are  docu- 
mentaries. While  conventional  documentary  practice, 
with  its  emphasis  on  the  objective  point  of  view  has  been 
challenged  as  an  inadequate  system  of  representation, 
many  women  still  find  its  traditional  equation  with  truth 
viable.  The  rest  of  the  tapes  can  be  characterized  as  ex- 
perimental narratives  in  that  they  adopt  strategies — such 
as  the  use  of  homemade  props  and  sets,  the  incorporation 
of  written  texts  on  the  screen,  and  the  disjunction 
between  voice-over  and  image — which  suggest  a  crit- 
ical stance  against  realist  narrative  and  performance 
conventions. 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  March  5,  following  the 
12:00  screening.  Lucinda  Furlong  will  be  present. 


Program  1  focuses  on  domestic  life,  traditionally  the 
domain  of  women.  Although  much  feminist  analysis  has 
singled  out  the  oppression  of  women  within  the  family 
structure,  these  tapes  emphasize  family  dynamics.  Van- 
alyne Green's  autobiographical  Trick  or  Drink  movingly 
conveys  the  horrors  of  being  the  child  of  alcoholic  parents, 
her  eventual  understanding  of  the  disease,  and  its  toll  on 
the  family.  Just  as  outward  appearances  often  disguise 
profound  problems,  Green  structures  the  tape  so  that  its 
first  section,  about  her  seemingly  "normal"  teenage  ob- 
session with  dieting  and  beauty,  is  shown  later  to  be 
related  to  her  parents'  sickness. 

In  Ayoka  Chenzira's  Secret  Sounds  Screaming:  The  Sex- 
ual Abuse  of  Children,  actors  are  used  to  relate  the  stories 
of  actual  victims.  However,  the  tape  is  not  a  docudrama  in 
the  usual  sense.  Chenzira  rapidly  cuts  from  these  stories, 
to  interviews  with  social  workers  and  the  mother  of  a  four- 
year-old  victim,  to  a  slow-motion  scene  of  an  empty  play- 
ground swing  set,  which  signifies  the  silence  that  many 
victims  endure.  Through  this  structure  and  pacing,  Chen- 
zira not  only  presents  information  about  the  myths  and 
realities  of  child  sexual  abuse,  but  also  captures  the  emo- 
tionally charged  nature  of  the  issue. 

In  Sherry  Millner 's  humorous  tape  Scenes  from  the  Micro 
War,  the  modern  family  is  in  a  state  of  crisis.  Appropriately 
for  the  1980s,  they  adopt  the  trappings  of  military  pre- 
paredness. Everything  they  own,  including  the  car  and 
shower  curtain,  is  camouflaged,  and  military  discipline 
becomes  the  model  for  family  interaction.  A  typical  day  is 
spent  dining  on  C-rations  with  their  two-year-old  and 
training  with  their  Uzi  submachine  guns.  At  one  point, 
Millner  and  her  partner,  Ernest  Larson,  apply  camouflage 
make-up  to  one  another,  signifying  the  merging  of  individ- 
ual identities  into  a  single  "nuclear"  unit. 

Program  2  analyzes  the  media,  either  as  instruments  of 
disinformation  or  as  manipulators  of  women's  anxieties 
about  family,  the  workplace,  and  modern  life.  In  Freedom 
of  Information  Tape  1:  Jean  Seberg,  Margia  Kramer  traces 
the  effects  of  the  EB.I.'s  Counter  Intelligence  Program 
(CoIntelPro),  which  investigated  hundreds  of  thousands  of 


1.  Martha  Gever,  "Video  Politics:  Early  Feminist  Projects,"  Afterimage,  11 
(Summer  1983),  pp.  25-27. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the 
Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Americans  from  1956  to  1971,  using  illegal  wiretaps,  infor- 
mants, and  disinformation.  Comparing  FB.I.  documents 
obtained  through  the  Freedom  of  Information  Act,  news 
accounts  of  Seberg's  life,  and  published  interviews  with 
the  actress,  Kramer  shows  how  disinformation  planted  in 
the  media  ultimately  led  to  Seberg's  suicide.  Particularly 
effective  for  its  irony  is  the  use  of  scenes  from  Jean-Luc 
Godard's  film  Breathless,  in  which  Seberg  starred,  which 
seem  to  portend  her  tragic  fate. 

In  Joan  Braderman  Reads  The  National  Enquirer, 
Braderman  delivers  a  manically  funny,  yet  sophisticated 
analysis  of  the  paper  that  5.1  million  people — mostly 
women — buy  every  week.  Using  keying  and  bright  colors 
to  mimic  the  tabloid's  form,  Braderman  confesses  her  ad- 
diction to  The  Enquirer  even  though  she  knows  it's  trash. 
She  asserts  that  the  power  of  these  manipulative  papers 
resides  in  their  affirmation  of  tendencies  traditionally  as- 
sociated with  being  female,  such  as  gossip  and  intuition, 
and  in  the  illusion  of  providing  women  with  things  that 
they  lack,  such  as  a  sense  of  community. 

A  critical  reading  of  the  press  is  also  the  subject  of 
Martha  Rosier 's  A  Simple  Case  for  Torture,  Or  How  to  Sleep 
at  Night.  The  tape  opens  with  Rosier  flipping  through  the 
pages  of  Newsweek  and  stopping  at  an  editorial  by  a 
philosophy  professor  who  advocates  the  use  of  torture 
under  certain  circumstances.  Rosier  identifies  the  total- 
itarian implications  of  such  an  argument;  she  formulates 
her  critique  through  voice-over  narration  and  by  stacking 
scores  of  news  clippings  and  books  on  subjects  ranging 
from  terrorism  and  human  rights  to  unemployment  and 
global  economics.  The  camera  pans  across  headlines  and 
Rosier  often  follows  the  text  with  her  fingers  to  reinforce 
the  reading  metaphor.  She  also  implicates  the  U.S.  govern- 
ment and  American  business  for  supporting  regimes  that 
systematically  use  torture.  In  the  process,  she  indicts  the 
American  press  for  its  role  as  an  agent  of  disinformation 
through  selective  coverage,  the  use  of  language,  and  for 
implicitly  legitimizing  a  point  of  view  that  justifies  torture. 

Program  3  presents  specific  instances  of  activism  and 
the  relationship  between  art  and  politics.  Just  Because  of 
Who  We  Are  examines  the  intersection  of  misogyny  and 
homophobia  in  the  stories  of  lesbians  who  have  been 
subjected  to  violence.  It  treats  both  physical  attacks  and 
the  psychological  pressures  brought  to  bear  on  these 
women  by  their  families.  The  tape  then  shifts  from  the 
personal  to  the  political  realm  with  scenes  from  a  gay 
pride  parade  and  a  contentious  New  York  City  Council 
hearing  on  gay  rights. 

The  dominant  theme  in  Michelle  Parkerson's  portrait  of 
the  black  activist  singing  group  Sweet  Honey  in  the  Rock 
is  how  these  women  integrate  their  political  beliefs — i.e., 
the  desire  to  advance  civil  rights  and  allied  struggles — 
with  their  creative  lives.  Parkerson's  combination  of  ex- 
cerpts from  the  group's  ninth  anniversary  concert  and 
interviews  with  its  members  underlines  the  idea  that  indi- 
vidual and  collective  goals  are  not  mutually  exclusive. 

Both  Jenny  Holzer's  Sign  on  a  Truck  and  Shu  Lea 
Cheang's  The  Trial  of  Tilted  Arc  document  events  that 
raise  issues  about  the  social  function  of  art  in  the  1980s.  At 
the  close  of  the  1984  presidential  campaign,  Holzer  staged 


a  video  speak-out  at  two  Manhattan  locations.  A  13-by-18- 
foot  Diamond  Vision  video  screen  was  mounted  on  a  trac- 
tor-trailer and  passersby  were  asked  who  they  were  vot- 
ing for  and  why.  "Reagan,  because  I  like  what's  in  my 
wallet, "  said  an  investment  banker.  This  live  action  was 
displayed  along  with  pre-recorded  tapes  and  the  pointed 
one-liners  for  which  Holzer  is  known. 

The  "trial"  of  Richard  Serra's  Tilted  Arc  was  actually  a 
series  of  hearings  held  in  1985  to  consider  removing  the 
steel  sculpture  that  bisects  Federal  Plaza  in  New  York  City. 
Government  workers  and  officials  took  turns  with  artists 
and  critics  in  voicing  their  respective  opposition  and  sup- 
port. The  tape  has  a  deceptively  simple  structure. 
Through  the  juxtaposition  of  arguments  which  range  from 
gut  negative  reactions  to  complex  defenses,  larger  issues 
are  raised  about  the  government's  obligation  to  honor  its 
original  commission  of  the  work,  about  populism  vs.  elit- 
ism, freedom  of  expression  vs.  the  rights  of  the  workers 
who  use  the  plaza. 

The  tapes  in  Program  4  show  how  recent  changes  in  the 
American  economy,  accompanied  by  conservative  eco- 
nomic and  social  theories,  have  adversely  affected 
women.  Women  of  Steel,  by  Mon  Valley  Media,  looks  at 
three  women  who,  benefiting  from  affirmative  action  pro- 
grams, were  hired  to  work  in  steel  mills  in  the  1970s. 
Among  the  first  to  lose  their  jobs  in  the  1980s,  these 
women — many  of  them  single  mothers — were  forced  to 
take  jobs  in  fast-food  restaurants  or  other  low-paying 
fields. 

As  Serafina  Bathrick  points  out  in  her  Paper  Tiger  Tele- 
vision program,  Serafina  Bathrick  Reads  Working  Woman, 
women  now  in  managerial  positions  have  adapted  to  the 
competitive — i.e.,  male — atmosphere  of  the  professional 
workplace  at  the  expense  of  cooperative  values  that 
women  traditionally  hold.  She  analyzes  the  way  that 
Working  Woman,  in  its  language,  imagery,  and  editorial 
position,  practices  a  kind  of  social  engineering  whereby 
women  are  advised  that  only  a  dog-eat-dog  mentality  will 
advance  them  up  the  corporate  ladder. 

Muriel  Jackson's  The  Maids!  traces  the  roots  of  domes- 
tic work  in  slavery,  and  shows  how  maid  service  was  once 
one  of  the  few  jobs  open  to  women.  The  tape  captures  the 
ambivalence  felt  by  many  domestic  workers :  aware  of  the 
social  stigma,  domestic  workers,  under  the  leadership  of 
Dorothy  Bolden,  have  professionalized  it  by  forming  a 
union.  Ironically,  as  Jackson  points  out  through  interviews 
both  with  workers  and  their  bosses,  black  women  domes- 
tics are  now  being  displaced  by  entrepreneurial  maid  ser- 
vices which,  in  the  south  at  least,  almost  exclusively  em- 
ploy white  women. 

Lucinda  Furlong 

Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 


Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  ''  1987  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  37 
■C    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Su  Friedrich 


October  6-18,  1987 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  October  13,  following  the 
2:00  screening.  Su  Friedrich  will  be  present. 


Su  Friedrich  is  among  a  handful  of  female  filmmakers  who, 
beginning  in  the  late  1970s,  sought  to  invest  the  strategies 
of  avant-garde  film — specifically  the  subjective,  meta- 
phorical cinema  pioneered  by  Maya  Deren — with  feminist 
concerns.  Her  films  (shot  in  black  and  white,  some  in 
Super-8)  are  spare  and  well  edited. 

In  Cool  Hands,  Warm  Heart  (1979)  and  Scar  Tissue  (1979), 
everyday  female  rituals  and  dress  assume  violent  con- 
notations. Both  films  explore  the  misogynistic  implica- 
tions of  routine  activities. 

Gently  Down  the  Stream  (1981)  and  the  shorter  film  But 
No  One  (1982)  are  based  on  dreams  Friedrich  recorded  in 
her  journals  over  an  eight-year  period.  Drawn  from  her 
most  troubling  dreams,  Gently  Down  the  Stream  is  a  series 
of  fourteen  vignettes  that  reflect  conflicts  about  sexuality, 
religion,  and  personal  relationships.  Each  segment  incor- 
porates descriptive  passages  etched  into  the  film — at 
times  getting  larger  or  edited  at  a  faster  pace  for  empha- 
sis— and  images  that  have,  according  to  Friedrich,  an  "in- 
direct but  potent  correspondence  to  the  dream  content." 

If  Gently  Down  the  Stream  is  a  kind  of  exorcism,  so  too  is 
The  Ties  That  Bind  (1984),  Friedrich's  inquiry  into  her  Ger- 
man Catholic  mother's  experiences  as  a  teenager  in  Nazi 
Germany.  Friedrich  structures  the  film  as  a  series  of  ques- 
tions, never  spoken,  but  handwritten  on  the  film  in  the 
style  used  in  Gently  Down  the  Stream.  As  her  mother 
describes  how  the  family  lost  its  house,  and  how  she  was 
sent  to  a  work  camp  after  refusing  to  join  the  Hitler  Youth, 
Friedrich  juxtaposes  footage  of  present-day  Germany, 
with  shots  of  a  toy  house  kit,  and  "junk"  mail  requesting 
support  for  various  progressive  causes.  In  so  doing, 
Friedrich  poses  questions  to  herself  about  how  she  would 
behave,  and  makes  connections  to  her  own  conduct  in 
relation  to  contemporary  events. 

Friedrich's  newest  film,  Damned  If  You  Don't  (1987), 
addresses  a  taboo  subject:  a  young  nun's  attraction  to 
another  woman.  It  opens  with  a  young  woman  lounging  in 
front  of  a  TV  watching  Michael  Powell's  classic  film  Black 
Narcissus  (1947),  which  pits  a  "good"  nun  against  a  "bad" 
nun.  Friedrich  condenses  the  film's  plot  by  using  both 
close-ups  from  the  original,  and  a  spare,  verbal  description 
of  the  narrative.  While  both  nuns  are  in  love  with  the  same 
man,  the  "bad"  nun  acts  on  her  desire.  After  being 
spurned  by  the  man,  she  returns  to  the  convent,  where 


she  is  pushed  over  a  cliff  by  the  "good"  nun.  Friedrich  then 
cuts  to  a  sequence  in  which  a  black-and-white  snake 
swims  gracefully  in  a  tank  of  water,  and  a  white  swan  is 
seen  gliding  across  a  pond  from  behind  the  black  bars  of  a 
fence.  Offscreen,  a  woman  recalls  a  sixth-grade  religion 
class  taught  by  a  nun  who  was  obsessed  with  talking 
about  sex.  The  symbolism  evident  in  this  sequence — 
black  vs.  white,  good  vs.  evil,  and  sexual  guilt  vs.  religious 
faith — is  elaborated  in  the  cat-and-mouse  game  that  en- 
sues between  the  woman  who'd  been  watching  TV  (Ela 
Troyano),  and  the  nun  (Peggy  Healey),  who  lives  in  a  con- 
vent nearby. 

After  a  series  of  silent  encounters,  the  nun  becomes 
increasingly  distressed  by  her  attraction  to  the  other 
woman,  whose  advances  become  bolder.  Friedrich  fluidly 
interweaves  these  scenes  with  repeated  segments  from 
Black  Narcissus  and  sensual  shots  of  the  nun  observing 
whales  swimming  at  the  New  York  Aquarium.  A  female 
voice-over  reads  trial  testimony  from  Immodest  Acts,  an 
account  of  Sister  Benedetta,  a  seventeenth-century  ab- 
bess accused  of  a  lesbian  relationship,  which  links  this 
story  to  a  tradition  of  popular  myths  about  nuns  and  sex. 

But  unlike  the  "bad"  nun  in  the  Powell  film,  who  is 
punished  for  her  crime,  Friedrich's  "bad"  nun  is  rewarded 
at  the  film's  conclusion  by  acknowledging,  and  finally, 
acting  on,  her  physical  attraction  to  another  woman.  In 


Damned  If  You  Don't,  1987 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


1981,  one  of  the  themes  of  Gently  Down  the  Stream  had 
been  the  guilt  of  a  lesbian  raised  as  a  Catholic;  six  years 
later,  Damned  If  You  Don 't  discovers  the  pleasure  of  break- 
ing the  rules. 

Lucinda  Furlong 

Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Artist's  Statement 

I  would  like  to  think  that  the  films  speak  for  themselves, 
but  it  might  be  useful  to  explain  how  and  why  I  choose  to 
experiment  so  much  with  the  form  and  structure.  I  studied 
art  history  and  then  worked  for  four  years  as  a  black-and- 
white  photographer,  which  gave  me  a  profound  respect  for 
the  expressive  power  of  static,  single,  and  silent  images. 
When  I  began  making  films,  it  was  a  thrill,  and  a  great 
challenge,  to  record  motion  and  to  create  unpredictable 
relations  between  images,  but  my  eye  for  silent,  singular 
images  held  sway,  as  did  my  love  for  the  particular  beauty 
of  black  and  white.  I  certainly  admire  many  narrative  and 
documentary  films,  but  instead  of  recreating  or  reproduc- 
ing a  familiar  world,  it's  been  more  exciting  to  collect  an 
odd  assortment  of  images,  both  scripted  and  shot  from 
real  life,  and  to  edit  them  so  that  unfamiliar  environments, 
states  of  mind,  and  rhythms  can  emerge.  Moreover,  by 
using  black  and  clear  leader,  by  writing  on  the  surface  of 
the  film,  by  reprinting  and  manipulating  images,  and  by 
the  disjunction  of  sound  and  image,  one  is  never  entirely 
seduced  by  "the  world  within  the  film";  one  is  always 
reminded  that  each  film  is  an  artificial  construction  of  a 
series  of  disparate  images  which  are  forced  to  peaceably 
coexist  and  communicate  with  each  other.  The  artist  as 
diplomat? 

Despite  my  abiding  interest  in  extending  the  language 
of  film,  I  find  that  people  tend  to  pay  more  attention  to  the 
content — perhaps  out  of  a  longstanding,  misguided  no- 
tion that  women,  unlike  men,  are  more  concerned  with 
content  than  with  form.  In  my  case,  each  film  does  begin 
with  an  obsession  about  a  particular  issue  (personal  ap- 
pearance, "bad"  dreams,  political  guilt,  and  sacreligious 
desires),  and  it's  been  a  great  relief  to  discover  that  one  can 
become  much  stronger  by  articulating  one's  fears,  anger, 
desires,  or  hope.  But  the  challenge  comes  in  trying  to  push 
film  beyond  its  usual  narrative  capacities,  so  that  those 
issues  can  be  most  precisely  conveyed,  so  that  the  form 
takes  as  many  risks  as  the  content. 

Experimental  film  is  usually  considered  a  poor  cousin  to 
"real"  filmmaking,  and  I'm  often  asked  whether  this  work 
is  just  a  prelude  to  making  narrative  features.  Perhaps 
people  aren't  as  eager  to  be  challenged  by  experimental 
films  as  they  are  glad  to  be  entertained  by  narratives,  but 
each  style  has  its  limitations  and  its  rewards,  and  each 
deserves  respect  as  a  separate  but  equal  art  form.  I've 
certainly  learned  as  much  about  the  human  mind  and 
heart  through  seeing  experimental  films  as  I  did  growing 
up  on  features. 

Su  Friedrich 


Biography 

Su  Fnednch  was  bom  in  New  Haven,  Connecticut,  in  1954.  After  graduat- 
ing Phi  Beta  Kappa  from  Oberlin  College  in  1974,  she  worked  at  the 
Women's  Graphics  Collective  in  Chicago,  traveled  in  West  Africa,  and  then 
moved  to  New  York.  As  a  member  of  the  Heresies  Collective  (1976-83), 
Friedrich  wrote  fiction  and  essays  for  Heresies:  A  Feminist  Journal  on  Art 
and  Politics,  and  film  criticism  for  The  Downtown  Review.  She  has  taught 
film  production  at  the  Collective  for  Living  Cinema,  and  optical  printing  at 
the  Millennium  Film  Workshop.  In  1984,  Friedrich  received  an  artist-in- 
residence  grant  from  the  Deutscher  Akademischer  Austauschdienst 
(DAAD)  for  study  m  West  Berlin.  In  addition,  she  has  been  awarded  grants 
from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  (1982,  1986)  and  the  Jerome 
Foundation  (1986).  Su  Friednch  lives  and  works  in  New  York. 

Selected  One-Artist  Screenings 

London  Film  Co-op,  1984;  Arsenal,  West  Berlin,  1984;  Filmmuseum, 
Munich,  1984;  Pacific  Film  Archive,  University  of  California,  Berkeley, 
1984;  Millennium  Film  Workshop,  New  York,  1984;  The  Funnel,  Toronto, 
1985;  The  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  1985;  Museum  of  Art,  Carnegie 
Institute,  Pittsburgh,  1985;  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis,  1986; 
Robert  Flaherty  Film  Seminar,  Wells  College,  Aurora,  New  York,  1987. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Beroes,  Stephanie.  "New  York  Interviews,"  Cinematograph,  2  (1986), 

pp.  68-71. 
Friedrich,  Su.  "Script  for  a  Film  Without  Images,"  Feminism /Film,  1 

(Spring  1984),  pp.  1-11. 
Hanlon,  Lindley  "Female  Rage:  The  Films  of  Su  Fnedrich,"  Millennium 

Film  Journal,  no.  12  (Fall/Winter  1982-83),  pp.  78-86. 
Jenkins,  Bruce.  "Gently  Down  the  Stream,"  Millennium  Film  Journal, 

nos.  16,  17,  18  (Fall/Winter  1986-87),  pp.  195-99. 
Kruger,  Barbara.  "The  Ties  That  Bind,"  Artforum,  23  (October  1984), 

p.  89. 

Filmography 

All  films  are  16mm,  black  and  white,  and  silent,  unless  otherwise  noted. 
Hot  Water,  1978.  Super-8,  sound,  12  minutes;  Cool  Hands,  Warm  Heart, 
1979.  16  minutes;  Scar  Tissue,  1979.  6  minutes;  I  Suggest  Mine,  1980. 
Black  and  white  and  color,  6  minutes;  Gently  Down  the  Stream,  1981.  15 
minutes;  But  No  One,  1982.  9  minutes;  The  Ties  That  Bind,  1984.  Sound, 
55  minutes;  Damned  If  You  Don't,  1987.  Sound,  41  minutes.  Production 
Assistant,  Peggy  Ahwesh. 

Selected  Festivals  and  Group  Screenings 

The  Kitchen,  New  York,  "Filmworks  '82,"  1982;  Collective  for  Living 
Cinema,  New  York,  "Ten  Years  of  Living  Cinema,"  1982;  Athens 
International  Film  Festival,  Ohio,  1983;  Melkweg,  The  Netherlands, 
"Women  and  Resistance,  1945-1985,"  1985;  New  Directors/New  Films, 
The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1985;  Salsomaggiore  Film  and 
Television  Festival,  Italy,  1985;  International  Festival  of  Films  by  Women, 
Montreal,  1985,  1986,  1987;  San  Francisco  International  Lesbian  and  Gay 
Film  Festival,  1987;  National  Film  Theatre,  London,  1987. 

Su  Fnednch 's  films  are  distributed  by  the  Film-makers'  Cooperative, 
New  York;  Women  Make  Movies,  New  York;  Canyon  Cinema,  San 
Francisco;  The  Funnel,  Toronto;  and  Circles,  London. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  «'j  1987  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   38 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Curt  Royston 


October  31-November  29,  1987 


Half  Light,  1987 

Multimedia  installation.  On  view  continuously 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  November  10,  at  3:00. 
Curt  Royston  will  be  present. 


Blue  Room,  1986,  with  Lisa  Fox.  Photograph  by  Curt  Royston. 


Works  in  the  Installation 

Dimensions  are  in  inches,  followed  by  centimeters;  height  precedes  width 
precedes  depth.  All  works  are  lent  by  the  artist. 

Blue  Room,  1986 

Acrylic  on  canvas,  plywood,  piano,  stool,  and  desk,  with  mirror,  and  electnc 
light  bulb,  108  x  156  x  120  (274.3  x  396.2  x  304.8);  video  camera  and  live 
video  monitor 

All  Our  Hands,  1987 

Acrylic  on  canvas,  plywood,  and  wood,  with  rope,  and  durotran,  96  x  132  X  48 

(243.8  x  335.3  x  121.9);  video  camera  and  live  video  monitor 

Eyelight,  1987 

Acrylic  and  oil  on  plywood,  51  x  63  x  8K2  (129.5  x  160  x  21.6);  video  camera  and 

live  video  monitor 

High  Noon,  1987 

Two  parts:  acrylic  on  plywood  and  wood,  with  velvet,  spoon,  cup,  artificial 
flowers,  and  electnc  light  fixture,  51  x  63  x  8V2  (129.5  x  160  X  21.6);  Type  C  print, 
with  frame,  51  x  63  (129.5  x  160) 

Photographs 

Pink  Cup,  1984 

Type  C  print,  with  frame,  41  x  48  (104.1  x  121.9) 

Torso  Two,  1984 

Type  C  print,  with  frame,  41  x  48  (104.1  X  121.9) 

Doll,  1985 

Type  C  print,  with  frame,  41  X  48  (104.1  x  121.9) 

Record  Player,  1985 

Type  C  print,  with  frame,  41  X  48  (104.1  X  121.9) 


Performances  of  High  Noon,  in  collaboration  with 
Lisa  Fox: 

Tuesdays  at  6:45 

Saturdays  and  Sundays  at  3:00 


Credits 

Performance:  written  by  Curt  Royston  and  Lisa  Fox;  performed  by 
Lisa  Fox;  piano  accompaniment  by  Harold  Collins. 
Film  (video  transfer):  directed  by  Curt  Royston;  written  by  Curt 
Royston  and  Lisa  Fox;  performed  by  Lisa  Fox,  with  Larry  Bams  and 
Harold  Collins;  original  music  by  Rhys  Chatham. 


The  centerpiece  of  Curt  Royston's  video  installation  Half 
Light  (1987)  is  his  tableau  entitled  Blue  Room  (1986).  It  is 
the  first  and  largest  in  a  series  of  pieces  which  employ 
video,  painting,  and  sculpture  to  involve  the  viewer  in  a 
conceptual  meditation  on  the  phenomenology  of  image 
making.  On  one  level,  Blue  Room  consists  of  a  structure 
that  frames  a  set  of  household  objects,  including  a  piano, 
desk,  mirror,  and  hanging  light  bulb,  which  have  been 
painted  over  in  a  dazzling  profusion  of  colors.  On  another 
level,  Blue  Room  is  a  painted  tableau  seen  on  a  monitor 
from  the  point  of  view  of  a  camera  positioned  opposite  the 
painted  area  and  objects.  The  two-dimensional  property 
of  the  video  image  on  the  monitor's  screen  flattens  the 
three-dimensional  space  of  the  actual  scene,  thereby  mak- 
ing the  objects  appear  to  be  painted  trompe  l'oeil  repre- 
sentations of  everyday  objects. 

On  a  technical  and  formal  level,  Royston  is  exploiting  a 
fundamental  and  unique  property  of  the  video  medium, 
namely,  the  ability  to  see  in  real  time  on  the  monitor  what 
the  camera  is  recording.  This  is  a  capacity  which  has 
allowed  installation  artists  since  the  late  1960s  to  control 
and  manipulate  the  perception  and  representation  of  a 
space.  Among  the  important  historical  precedents  for 
Royston's  use  of  closed-circuit  video  systems  are  Peter 
Campus'  Mem  (1975),  which  projected  onto  the  gallery 
wall  the  transformed  and  ambiguous  figure  of  the  spec- 
tator entering  the  space,  and  Buky  Schwartz's  Yellow  Tri- 
angle (1979),  which  rendered  a  painted  area  of  a  gallery 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


wall  and  floor  space  as  a  geometric  object  when  seen  from 
the  camera's  point  of  view  Royston's  larger  installations 
are  inventive  and  witty  intertextual  explorations  of  paint- 
ing and  sculpture  that  become  imaginary  narrative  tab- 
leaux. He  extends  the  temporal  dimension  through  his 
collaboration  with  the  choreographer-dancer  Lisa  Fox. 
Through  her  movements  and  gestures,  Fox  activates  Half 
Light  as  a  narrative  and  expressive  space  within  the  gal- 
lery and  on  the  surface  of  the  monitor's  screen.  Royston's 
accomplishments  as  a  filmmaker  as  well  as  his  training  in 
painting  and  sculpture  have  contributed  to  the  creation  of 
a  mise-en-scene  that  extends  installation  into  a  multi- 
dimensional experience,  both  playful  and  provocative  in 
its  reflection  of  the  nature  of  the  image  and  its  origins. 

Royston  has  created  a  group  of  smaller  video  pieces  (All 
Our  Hands,  Eyelight,  1987)  and  photographs  which  frag- 
ment the  narrative  space  of  the  larger  Blue  Room  into 
individual  studies.  In  these,  specific  arrangements  of  ob- 
jects are  seen  both  as  painted,  three-dimensional  surfaces 
and  as  video  images.  In  the  case  of  the  photographs  of 
painted  objects,  the  still  images  appear  to  be  photographs 
of  paintings.  The  individual  objects  are  hidden  under  a 
painted  surface  that  renders  objects  at  once  real  and  imag- 
inary because  the  painted  colors  and  textures  interfere 
with  our  normal  sense  of  depth  perception.  The  reworking 
of  individual  assemblages  of  objects  as  paintings  and  as 
recognizable  objects  results  in  an  imaginary  surface  that 
exploits  the  material  basis  of  the  image.  In  the  process, 
Royston's  aesthetic  explores  our  conditioned  response  to 
the  nature  of  representational  illusion  and  to  the  concept 
of  reality. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


The  work  in  this  show  is  based  on  and  is  a  resolution  of  my 
work  of  the  last  five  years.  This  installation  represents  the 
integration  of  work  I  have  done  in  different  media — film, 
painting,  and  sculpture.  At  this  point  in  time,  my  use  of  the 
camera  to  control  how  the  work  is  seen,  and  the  reality 
this  illusion  implies,  has  become  central.  The  presence  of 
the  camera,  which  constantly  feeds  new  visual  informa- 
tion to  the  video  monitor,  creates  a  perpetual  sense  of  the 
present. 

The  work  is  visceral:  the  component  painting  and  sculp- 
tural elements  possess  an  extreme  physicality  At  the 
same  time,  this  sensual  quality  is  controlled  by  a  larger 
conceptual  presence — the  reproduced  image  created  by 
the  camera.  This  tension  is  restated  in  Lisa  Fox's  perfor- 
mance. As  she  moves  within  the  space,  alternately  em- 
bracing and  rejecting  her  role  as  a  muse,  Fox  becomes 
both  the  observer  and  the  observed,  the  real  and  the 
illusory.  In  Half  Light,  both  the  deceptive  and  the  real  are 
on  equal  ground. 

Curt  Royston 


Biography 

Curt  Royston  was  born  in  San  Francisco  in  1951  He  graduated  from  the  Univer- 
sity of  California,  Berkeley  (B.A.,  1974),  and  then  made  three  films.  The  second, 
Notes  for  an  Adagio  (1976),  was  purchased  by  the  Archivio  Emilia,  Teatro  Valli  in 
Bologna,  Italy.  In  1982,  he  composed  music  and  sound  works  for  The  Hunt,  an 
internationally  toured  solo  work  by  choreographer  Lisa  Fox,  who  was  a  leading 
dancer  and  soloist  with  the  Merce  Cunningham  Dance  Company  from  1976  to 
1980  Royston's  In  Artificial  Light  was  voted  Best  Experimental  Film  at  the  1984 
Houston  International  Film  Festival ;  the  same  year,  he  and  Fox  were  awarded  an 
Inter-Arts  grant  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  for  their  film 
Hothouse.  Royston  recently  completed  Room  with  Blinds,  a  multimedia  installa- 
tion commissioned  by  Pedus  Office  of  New  York,  Inc.,  at  the  53rd  At  Third 
building.  He  lives  and  works  in  New  York. 


'*& 


Photograph  by  Curt  Royston 


Group  Screenings  and  Festivals 

The  Public  Theater.  New  York,  "Fumdance  Festival,"  1983;  The  Kitchen,  New 
York,  1983;  Mill  Valley  Film  Festival,  California,  1984,  Festival  d'Automne.  Pans. 
1984,  Yale  University  Art  Gallery,  New  Haven,  "Dancing  with  the  Camera," 
1984;  Houston  International  Film  Festival,  1984;  Three  Rivers  Arts  Festival, 
Pittsburgh,  "Juned  Film  Exhibition,"  1985. 


Filmography 

All  films  are  16mm,  color  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

White  Shirt  Place,  1976.  Black  and  white,  51  minutes 

Notes  for  an  Adagio,  1976  Black  and  white,  3Vz  minutes. 

Look  Out  Below,  1977.  10  minutes. 

En  passant,  1978  19  minutes. 

In  Artificial  Light,  1980-83,  choreography  by  Lisa  Fox  Black  and  white  and 

color,  20  minutes. 
Day  in  the  Park,  1983,  in  collaboration  with  Lisa  Fox  4  minutes. 
Hothouse,  1985.  in  collaboration  with  Lisa  Fox.  10  minutes. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  <'  1987  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   39 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Shirley  Clarke 


December  5-27,  1987 


Gallery  Talk,  Thursday,  December  10,  following  the 
12:00  screening.  Shirley  Clarke  will  be  present. 


Shirley  Clarke's  career  as  an  independent  film  and  video 
producer  spans  thirty-five  years.  Not  only  were  her  films 
among  the  most  successful  independent  productions, 
winning  wide  theatrical  distribution  and  critical  acclaim, 
but  she  was  also  a  stalwart  activist  in  the  efforts  to  build 
support  networks  for  American  independent  film  in  the 
1960s.  One  of  the  few  women  filmmakers  of  her  genera- 
tion, she  served  as  a  role  model  for  countless  others. 

Clarke's  early  films  draw  upon  her  training  as  a  dancer. 
In  Dance  in  the  Sun  (1953),  produced  with  dancer  and 
choreographer  Daniel  Nagrin,  Clarke  cuts  between 
scenes  of  the  same  dance,  shot  in  the  studio  and  on  the 
beach.  A  shot  of  a  movement  begun  in  the  studio  is  com- 
pleted in  a  shot  on  the  beach,  creating  a  rhythmic  pattern 
that  accelerates  at  the  film's  climax. 

Although  no  dancers  populate  In  Paris  Parks  (1954) ,  her 
second  film,  it  demonstrates,  according  to  Clarke,  that 
"you  can  make  dance  films  without  dancers."  Loosely 
structured  as  a  "day  in  the  park,"  it  opens  with  a  sequence 
in  which  a  little  girl  (her  daughter  Wendy)  enters  a  park 
rolling  a  Hula-Hoop,  and  ends  at  sunset  when  a  group  of 
people  leave.  In  between  is  a  series  of  fluidly  edited,  often 
humorous,  vignettes — children  on  a  carousel,  or  feeding 
pigs  in  the  zoo — that  emphasize  movement  both  within 
the  frame  and  from  shot  to  shot.  This  trademark  editing 
style  is  also  evident  in  later  films  such  as  Skyscraper, 
Bridges-Go-Round,  and  The  Cool  World.  Clarke,  who  has 


Shirley  Clarke  filming  The  Connection  (1961) 


often  spoken  of  the  idea  of  choreography  in  editing,  em- 
ploys similar  techniques  in  two  other  dance  films,  Bull- 
fight (1955)  and  A  Moment  in  Love  (1956),  to  explore  the 
interplay  between  fantasy  and  reality. 

In  the  late  1950s,  Clarke  was  hired  by  Willard  Van  Dyke 
to  produce  several  "sponsored  films."  Bruxelles  Loops 
(1957),  exhibited  at  the  U.S.  Pavilion  at  the  1958  Brussels 
World's  Fair,  was  a  series  of  short  "bits  of  Americana" 
edited  into  loop  films.  Using  footage  of  various  New  York 
City  bridges  originally  intended  for  the  Brussels  project 
and  footage  she  and  her  husband,  Bert,  later  shot,  Clarke 
then  made  Bridges-Go-Round,  one  of  her  most  famous 
experimental  films.  Syncopated  to  a  jazz  sound  track  (a 
later  version  used  electronic  music),  Bridges-Go-Round  is  a 
study  in  perpetual  motion  achieved  through  camera  pan- 
ning, rhythmic  editing,  and  flipping  and  layering  the  same 
scenes  shot  from  different  points  of  view  Clarke's  use  of 
bright  background  colors  and  dark  images  ensures  that 
geometric  shape,  not  detail,  predominates — an  effect  that 
heightens  the  abstract  quality  of  the  film. 

Skyscraper  (1959),  underwritten  by  Tishman  Realty  and 
produced  by  Van  Dyke,  is  a  whimsical  documentary  on  the 
construction  of  the  Tishman  Building  at  666  Fifth  Avenue, 
as  seen  from  the  worker's  point  of  view  In  Skyscraper, 
Clarke  adroitly  interweaves  breathtaking  scenes  shot 
from  dizzying  heights  with  the  more  mundane  details  of 
construction.  Reflecting  American  prosperity  and  un- 
abashed confidence,  the  film  is  an  upbeat  portrayal  of 
New  York  City's  developers.  Skyscraper  is  prophetic,  too, 
of  Clarke's  later  willingness  to  break  the  rules  of  tradi- 
tional documentary.  Rather  than  use  an  expert,  au- 
thoritative voice  for  the  sound  track,  Clarke  substituted 
two  offscreen  actors,  who,  playing  the  roles  of  construc- 
tion workers,  chattily  describe  and  comment  on  the  con- 
struction process. 

Clarke's  inventive  approach  to  the  documentary  form  is 
also  evident  in  A  Scary  Time  (1960),  a  film  produced  for  the 
United  Nations.  A  plea  for  support  for  the  U.N.  Children's 
Fund,  A  Scary  Time  combines  footage  of  starving  children 
in  Third  World  countries  with  shots  of  American  children 
donning  Halloween  costumes.  In  one  sequence,  the  pre- 
tended horror  of  a  skeleton  costume  turns  into  the  real 
thing  in  an  image  of  an  emaciated  baby. 

The  late  1950s  and  early  1960s  was  a  critical  period  in 
the  development  of  American  independent  cinema.  Like 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  The  Bohen  Foundation, 

George  S.  Kaufman,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts,  and  the  John  D.  and  Catherine  T 

MacArthur  Foundation. 


the  painters,  poets,  and  jazz  musicians  who  were  often 
the  subjects  of  these  films,  the  filmmakers  were  fueled  by 
"a  desperate  need  to  combat  the  complacency  of  middle- 
class  America,  the  racial  inequalities  of  its  social  systems, 
and  the  dispiriting  academic  idea  of  an  intellectual  and 
artistic  elite."1  This  movement,  called  the  New  American 
Cinema,  also  arose  out  of  a  desire  to  combat  Hollywood's 
monopoly  on  the  production,  exhibition,  and  distribution 
of  commercial  films.  Influenced  both  by  the  French 
"nouvelle  vague"  and  the  cinema-verite  approach  to  docu- 
mentary promulgated  by  Robert  Drew  and  Richard  Lea- 
cock,  these  films,  including  John  Cassavetes'  Shadows 
(1959),  Lionel  Rogosin's  Come  Back  Africa  (1959),  Robert 
Frank  and  Alfred  Leslie's  Pull  My  Daisy  (1959),  and  The 
Savage  Eye  (1959)  by  Ben  Maddow,  Sidney  Meyers,  and 
Joseph  Strick,  were  characterized  by  improvisation,  hand- 
held cameras,  location  shooting,  and  small  crews. 

Clarke's  controversial  foray  into  this  arena  began  with 
The  Connection  (1961),  an  adaptation  of  Jack  Gelber's  Off- 
Broadway  play.  The  Connection  is  a  fiction  film  posing  as  a 
documentary.  Its  subject  is  a  group  of  heroin  addicts  wait- 
ing for  their  "connection"  to  arrive  with  a  fix,  but  its  under- 
lying theme  is  existential  angst  and  Beat-generation 
alienation.  It  opens  with  a  title  and  voice-over  by  the  film's 
supposed  "cameraman,"  J.J.  Burden,  who  explains  that  he 
edited  the  footage,  shot  in  a  drug  addict's  apartment, 
which  was  left  behind  by  the  "documentary  filmmaker 
Jim  Dunn."  He  concludes :  "I  did  it  as  honestly  as  I  could,"  a 
comment  designed  to  convince  us  that  what  we  are  about 
to  see  is  "true." 

In  fact,  The  Connection  is  an  elaborately  staged  drama 
that  deliberately  manipulates  commonly  held  assump- 
tions about  the  documentary  film  in  order  to  expose  its 
limits  and  ethical  implications.  Throughout  the  film,  both 
Burden  and  Dunn  move  in  and  out  of  the  scene,  interact- 
ing with  the  characters  in  a  way  that  suggests  we  are 
seeing  footage  which  would  ordinarily  have  been  cut.  The 
addicts  often  look  at  the  camera  and  address  the  cam- 
eraman. The  camera,  in  turn,  periodically  pans  rapidly 
across  the  apartment,  resulting  in  a  blurred  image.  This 
creates  the  illusion  that  the  film  is  being  shot  in  real  time, 
when,  in  fact,  it  is  heavily  edited.  But  it  is  the  naive, 
nervous  character  of  Dunn  that  underscores  the  problem- 
atic position  of  the  documentary  filmmaker.  In  his  desire  to 
capture  real  life,  he  constantly  exhorts  the  junkies  to  "act 
naturally." 

The  Connection  raised  important  questions  about  the 
nature  of  documentary  truth  that  were  pursued  later  by 
other  filmmakers.  But  in  1960,  on  the  heels  of  the  re- 
pressive atmosphere  of  the  McCarthy  era,  a  more  pressing 
issue  was  censorship.  After  only  two  screenings  at  the 
D.W.  Griffith  Theater  in  New  York,  the  New  York  State 
Board  of  Regents  refused  to  license  The  Connection  for 
commercial  distribution  on  grounds  of  obscenity.  The  case 
galvanized  other  filmmakers  who  were  also  facing  prob- 
lems of  censorship  into  action.  Eventually,  the  ruling  was 
overturned  by  the  New  York  State  Supreme  Court. 

With  the  success  of  her  first  feature,  Clarke  was  asked 
by  Frederick  Wiseman  to  direct  The  Cool  World,  which 
would  be  based  on  Warren  Miller's  1959  novel.  The  Cool 


World  (1963)  is  the  story  of  Duke  Custis,  a  black  teenager 
on  a  downward  spiral,  whose  twin  obsessions  are  getting 
a  gun  and  becoming  leader  of  the  Royal  Pythons,  the 
Harlem  gang  to  which  he  belongs.  A  more  conventional 
narrative  than  The  Connection,  the  film  adopts  a  docu- 
mentary style,  using  scenes  improvised  by  teenagers  re- 
cruited by  Carl  Lee,  a  black  actor  who  was  living  with 
Clarke  at  the  time.  Lee  wrote  the  script  with  Clarke  and 
also  plays  the  role  of  Priest,  a  gangster  from  whom  Duke  is 
trying  to  buy  the  gun.  The  film's  dramatic  action,  which 
centers  around  Duke's  dealings  with  the  gang  and  his 
family,  is  punctuated  by  interludes  designed  to  reveal  his 
inner  thoughts.  These  sequences,  unlike  the  scenes 
where  long  takes  and  improvisational  acting  ape  a  verite 
approach,  consist  of  quick  cuts  between  shots  of  everyday 
street  scenes,  and  are  accompanied  by  Duke's  voice-over 
musings. 

The  Cool  World  was  a  daring  film  that  reflected  liberal 
attitudes  of  the  period,  focusing  attention  on  the  inner  city 
and  identifying  racism  and  segregation  as  the  root  causes 
of  Duke's  alienation  and  eventual  self-destruction.  As 
Noel  Carroll  has  pointed  out,  The  Cool  World  is  very  much 
the  product  of  the  pre-Black-power  stage  of  the  civil  rights 
movement,  "underwritten  by  the  hope  that  the  documen- 
tation and  explanation  of  injustice  will  move  people  of 
good  will  to  eradicate  it."2 

The  Connection  was  a  fiction,  intricately  crafted  by  the 
filmmaker.  In  Portrait  of  Jason  (1967),  a  documentary,  it  is 
the  subject  who  constructs  the  artifice.  The  film  is  a  mono- 
logue by  Jason  Holliday  the  name  taken  by  Aaron  Paine,  a 
black,  gay  prostitute,  who  was  a  friend  of  Carl  Lee.  Shot 
one  evening  over  a  twelve-hour  period,  it  was  later  cut 
down  by  Clarke.  As  the  camera  moves  into  focus,  he 
begins:  "My  name  is  Jason  Holliday."  He  repeats  this  line, 
mimicking  the  opening  of  the  TV  game  show  To  Tbll  the 
Truth.  Prompted  off-camera  by  Clarke  and  Lee  to  tell  sto- 
ries they'd  heard  him  tell  countless  times  before,  it  be- 
comes clear  that  not  only  is  it  impossible  for  Jason  to  tell 
the  truth,  but  that  the  truth  is  unknowable.  Constantly 
hustling  for  sex  and  money,  Jason's  unrealized  goal  is  to 
get  his  nightclub  act  together.  Jason  is  an  emotional  roller 


Bridges-Go  Round  (1958) 


The  Cool  World  (1963) 

coaster,  articulate  and  funny  as  he  poignantly  recalls  epi- 
sodes of  racism  he  experienced  while  working  as  a  valet, 
describes  the  various  ways  he'd  robbed  or  coerced  people, 
or  goes  through  his  repertoire  of  female  impersonations. 
By  the  end  of  the  film,  despite  Clarke  and  Lee's  in- 
creasingly confrontational  tactics,  even  Jason's  tears  seem 
to  be  an  act.  The  film's  structure  was  obtained  through  the 
shooting  process:  at  the  beginning  and  end  of  the  10- 
minute  reels,  Jason's  image  goes  in  and  out  of  focus,  a 
device  which  underscores  the  idea  that  Jason's  true  iden- 
tity is  never  fixed. 

Portrait  of  Jason  brilliantly  elucidates  two  central  issues 
of  documentary:  exploitation  and  voyeurism.  On  the  one 
hand,  Jason  serves  the  producer's  need  for  an  interesting 
subject — an  "other"  who  appeals  to  the  voyeuristic  tend- 
encies of  both  filmmaker  and  viewer.  But  the  relationship 
is  mutually  exploitative  in  that  Jason's  performance  for  the 
camera  reveals  his  own  narcissistic  and  manipulative 
tendencies.  In  the  end,  both  filmmaker  and  subject  get 
what  they  want,  in  the  process  shaking  up  assumptions 
about  documentary  truth. 

After  Portrait  of  Jason,  Clark  turned  to  video  as  a  more 
economical  way  to  produce  films.  But  like  many  others, 
she  discovered  that  video  presented  new  possibilities.  In 
1970,  she  formed  the  T.E  Videospace  Troupe,  a  loose  con- 
federation of  artists  and  hippies  that  met  in  a  downtown 
Manhattan  loft.  The  First  Years:  T.P  Videospace  Troupe, 
1970-72  is  a  collection  of  excerpts  from  their  experimental 
tapes,  produced  between  1970  and  1975,  which  utilize 
video's  real-time  interactive  capability.  These  excerpts  in- 
clude documentation  of  a  party  given  by  John  Lennon  and 
Yoko  Ono,  and  a  humorous  makeup  demonstration  by 
Shirley  and  Wendy  Clarke  that  uses  the  video  monitor  as  a 
mirror. 

Throughout  the  seventies  and  early  eighties,  Clarke 
returned  to  her  roots  in  dance  and  theater,  translating 
several  solo  pieces  into  film  and  video.  Trans  (1979)  is  the 
culmination  of  a  four-part  study  of  dance  and  film,  in 
which  a  solo  dancer's  movement — originally  shot  on 
film — is  abstracted  through  the  use  of  video  colorization. 


Working  as  an  artist-in-residence  at  the  Women's  Inter- 
art  Center,  Clarke  produced  Savage/Love  (1981)  and 
Tongues  (1982),  two  monologues  by  Sam  Shepard,  per- 
formed by  Joseph  Chaiken.  In  both  tapes,  Clarke  inter- 
preted Shepard's  text  through  the  use  of  video  effects.  For 
instance,  in  Savage/Love,  a  succession  of  freeze  frames  is 
used  to  articulate  Chaiken's  difficulty  in  expressing  his 
feelings;  in  Tongues,  Clarke  stretches  Chaiken's  image  as 
his  voice  intonation  changes.  In  these  projects,  Clarke  was 
able  to  experiment  with  video  techniques  which  she  then 
incorporated  into  her  most  recent  feature  film,  Ornette: 
Made  in  America  (1985).  Ornette  can  be  seen  as  a  summa- 
tion of  sorts.  While  ostensibly  a  documentary  about  Or- 
nette Coleman,  one  of  America's  most  original  composers, 
it  freely  incorporates  lengthy  fictional  and  experimental 
sequences.  And  although  it  was  produced  as  a  film, 
Clarke  makes  extensive  use  of  video  technology  in  what 
was  a  complicated  post-production  process.  This  amal- 
gam of  forms  and  techniques  is  partly  due  to  the  diversity 
of  source  material.  As  a  friend  of  Coleman,  Clarke  had 
originally  begun  shooting  the  film  in  the  late  1960s;  it  also 
makes  use  of  old  black-and-white,  half-inch  video  shot  by 
Coleman  in  Nigeria  in  the  seventies,  as  well  as  concert 
footage  and  documentation  of  a  lavish  homecoming  cele- 
bration for  Coleman  in  Fort  Worth,  where  he  was  born. 

In  one  sequence,  Ornette  speaks  of  the  influence  of 
Buckminster  Fuller's  ideas  on  his  music;  shots  of  a  string 
quartet  playing  his  music  inside  a  geodesic  dome  are 
intercut  in  a  manner  reminiscent  of  Bridges-Go-Round.  In 
another,  Clarke  constructs  a  visually  elaborate  "video 
game,"  which  juxtaposes  heavily  processed  images  of  a 
boy  (playing  the  role  of  the  young  Ornette)  operating  the 
controls,  with  footage  of  Ornette  playing  the  saxophone. 
When  the  screen  reads  "Game  Over,"  it  signals  as  well  the 
end  of  the  rapid-fire  cascade  of  special  effects,  a  playfully 
sly  commentary  on  the  facile  use  of  video  technology.  But 
it  is  the  conjunction  of  such  disparate  elements  that  fulfills 
Clarke's  goal  of  making  a  film  whose  structure  parallels 
the  complexity  and  richness  of  Coleman's  music. 
Lucinda  Furlong 
Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 

1.  Melinda  Ward  and  Bruce  Jenkins,  "Introduction,"  in  The  American 
New  Wave:  1958-1967,  exhibition  catalogue  (Minneapolis:  Walker  Art 
Center,  1982),  p.  3. 

2.  Noel  Carroll,  "Nothing  But  a  Man,  The  Cool  World,"  in  The  American 
New  Wave:  1958-1967,  p.  42. 


My  mother  was  very  beautiful;  my  father  was  evidently 
very  rich,  and  bald,  so  he  always  wore  hats.  The  result  is 
that  to  this  day,  I  always  wear  one  of  fifty-odd  hats. 

I  am  the  oldest  of  three  sisters.  I  walked  and  talked  by 
the  age  of  nine  months,  and  then  I  became  a  loner  of  sorts. 
When  I  was  still  a  young  girl,  I  had  about  twenty  Felix  the 
Cat  toys,  from  tiny  wooden  ones  to  large  stuffed  Felixes 
that  my  parents  brought  back  from  France.  I  had  a  Felix 
the  Cat  costume  that  my  French  governess  made  for  me  to 
attend  a  girlfriend's  costume  party.  Also,  I  had  a  16mm  film 


by  Otto  Messmer  called  Felix  Out  of  Luck.  So,  I  would  sit 
watching  my  Felix  film  in  my  Felix  the  Cat  costume,  sur- 
rounded by  my  entire  collection  of  Felix  the  Cats. 

A  little  later,  I  got  married  to  a  typographer  named  Bert 
Clarke,  who  was  a  kind,  talented,  and  very  handsome 
man.  Besides  which,  in  those  days  it  was  the  only  way  to 
get  away  from  home.  On  our  wedding  day,  we  received  a 
16mm  camera  which  allowed  Bert  to  realize  he  was  a 
brilliant  cameraman.  After  our  daughter  Wendy  was  born, 
we  recorded  her  every  waking  and  "unwaking"  moment 
on  film.  I  am  no  longer  married  to  Bert,  but  I  stayed  mar- 
ried to  the  camera  and  moved  into  the  Chelsea  Hotel. 

Up  to  that  point  I  was  determined  that  I  was  going  to  be 
the  greatest  dancer  in  the  world.  I  studied  with  Martha 
Graham  and  Doris  Humphrey — talent.  Then  I  became  de- 
pressed, as  I  realized  that  I  was  not  going  to  be  The 
Greatest  Dancer  in  the  World.  It  was  then  that  my  interest 
in  film  blossomed. 

A  friend  and  a  dancer  named  Daniel  Nagrin  was  prepar- 
ing to  go  to  Hollywood  for  a  role  he  had  gotten  in  a  Bing 
Crosby  film.  As  he  had  never  seen  himself  on  film,  he 
asked  if  I  would  film  him  to  see  how  he  looked.  He  was 
performing  a  new  dance  work  at  the  92nd  Street  Y.  I 
decided  to  take  him  out  to  the  beach  and  film  it  there, 
because  it  was  called  Dance  in  the  Sun.  It  was  not  until 
about  a  year  ago  that  Daniel  told  me  that  it  was  really 
about  walking  in  a  forest. 

Shirley  Clarke 


Biography 

Shirley  Clarke,  who  was  bom  in  New  York  City,  attended  The  Lincoln 
School,  New  York,  Stephens  College  in  Missoun,  the  Bennington  School  of 
the  Dance,  Vermont,  and  was  a  member  of  the  Carolina  Playmakers 
theater  group  at  the  University  of  North  Carolina  at  Chapel  Hill.  She 
studied  modem  dance  with  Martha  Graham  and  Doris  Humphrey,  worked 
and  danced  with  Hanya  Holm  and  Anna  Sokolow,  and  performed  her  own 
onginal  pieces  at  the  Dance  Theatre  at  the  92nd  Street  Y  and  Carnegie  Hall 
in  New  York.  Since  1954,  she  has  received  awards  for  her  films  from  major 
festivals  and  foundations,  including  First  Prize  for  Skyscraper  at  the  1959 
Venice  Film  Festival,  the  Cntic's  Award  from  the  Cannes  Film  Festival 
(1961),  an  Academy  Award  for  Best  Feature  Documentary  for  Robert  Frost: 
A  Lover's  Quarrel  with  the  World  (1964),  a  Directors'  Guild  of  America 
Award  (1966),  and  a  1986  Indie  Award  from  the  Association  of  Independent 
Video  and  Filmmakers.  Clarke  has  received  grants  for  video  from  the  New 
York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  (1970-72,  1982),  the  National  Endowment 
for  the  Arts  (1972,  1982),  and  the  Rockefeller  Foundation  (1972).  She  was  a 
founding  member  and  director  of  the  Film-Makers'  Distribution  Center 
and  the  Film-Makers'  Cooperative,  and  is  presently  a  Board  Member  of 
Anthology  Film  Archives.  From  1975  to  1983,  Clarke  was  a  Professor  of 
Film  at  the  University  of  California,  Los  Angeles.  She  lives  and  works  in 
New  York. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Bershen,  Wanda.  "David  Holzman's  Diary,  Portrait  of  Jason"  In  The 

American  New  Wave:  1958-1967  (exhibition  catalogue).  Minneapolis: 

Walker  Art  Center  1982,  pp.  63-69. 
Breitrose,  Henry.  "The  Films  of  Shirley  Clarke."  Film  Quarterly,  13 

(Summer  1960),  pp.  57-58. 
Clarke,  Shirley  "A  Statement  on  Dance  and  Film  "  Dance  Perspectives, 

no.  30  (Summer  1967),  pp.  20-23. 
"Film-Makers'  Cooperative  (Distribution  of  Independent  Films)."  Film 

Culture,  no.  42  (Fall  1966),  pp.  46-52. 


Jordan,  June.  "Testimony  (1964)."  In  Civil  Wars.  Boston:  Beacon  Press, 

1981,  pp.  3-15. 
Rabinovitz,  Lauren.  "Choreography  of  Cinema:  An  Interview  with 

Shirley  Clarke."  Afterimage,  11  (December  1983),  pp.  8-11. 
Schwartz,  David.  "Saxophones  in  Space."  Theater  Crafts  Magazine,  20 

(May  1986),  pp.  76-78. 
Walker,  Jesse,  and  Gordon  Hitchens.  "The  Cool  World."  Film  Comment, 

2,  no.  2  (1964),  pp.  51-53. 
Wright,  Basil,  and  Arlene  Croce.  "The  Connection:  Pro  .  .  .  Con."  Film 

Quarterly,  15  (Summer  1962),  pp.  41-45. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

KiVa  Theater,  Scottsdale,  Arizona,  1962;  Robert  Flaherty  Film  Seminar, 
Dummerston,  Vermont,  1959,  1964;  Northwestern  University,  Evanston, 
111.,  1958,  1966,  1986;  New  Cinema  Showcase,  New  York,  1967;  Kent  State 
University,  Ohio,  1969;  The  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  New  York,  "The  Films 
of  Shirley  Clarke,"  1971;  Los  Angeles  County  Museum  of  Art,  1977;  Amer- 
ican Film  Institute  Theater,  John  E  Kennedy  Center,  Washington,  D.C., 
"Shirley  Clarke:  Vision  and  Movement,"  1982;  Long  Beach  Museum  of  Art, 
"Shirley  Clarke:  Selected  Video  and  Film  Works,  1961-1985,"  1987. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions  and  Festivals 

The  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  New  York,  1954;  Venice  Film  Festival,  1955, 
1959, 1963, 1979;  Edinburgh  Film  Festival,  1955;  14th  Cannes  International 
Film  Festival,  1961;  Puerto  Rico  Film  Festival,  1966;  5th  Annual  New  York 
Film  Festival,  1967;  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  "Women 
Filmmakers  Retrospective,"  1973;  The  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  'A  History 
of  the  American  Avant-Garde  Cinema,"  1976  (traveled);  Walker  Art  Center, 
Minneapolis,  "The  American  New  Wave:  1958-1967,"  1982  (traveled);  14th 
International  Moscow  Film  Festival,  1985. 

Selected  Filmography 

All  films  are  16mm,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Dance  in  the  Sun,  1953.  Black  and  white,  6  minutes. 

In  Paris  Parks,  1954.  12  minutes. 

Bullfight,  1955.  9  minutes. 

A  Moment  in  Love,  1956.  8  minutes. 

Bruxelles  Loops,  1957.  Silent,  fifteen  2V2  minute  film  loops. 

Bridges-Go-Round,  1958.  4  minutes.  Two  sound  versions:  jazz,  and 

electronic. 
Skyscraper,  1959.  35mm,  black  and  white  and  color,  20  minutes. 
A  Scary  Time,  1960.  35mm,  black  and  white,  20  minutes. 
The  Connection,  1961.  35mm,  black  and  white,  100  minutes. 
The  Cool  World,  1963.  35mm,  black  and  white,  100  minutes. 
Portrait  of  Jason,  1967.  35mm,  black  and  white,  105  minutes. 
Four  Journeys  into  Mystic  Time  (1978-79):  Initiation,  1978.  29  minutes; 

Mysterium,  1979.  14  minutes;  Trans,  1979.  7  minutes;  One  Two  Three, 

1979.  8  minutes. 
Omette:  Made  in  America,  1985.  35mm,  80  minutes. 

Selected  Videography 

All  videotapes  are  3/V',  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

TP  (Tower  Playpen)  Videospace  Troupe,  1970-75.  8  tapes,  W  reel-to-reel. 

black  and  white,  30  minutes  each. 
Angels  of  Light,  1972.  1",  black  and  white  and  color,  60  minutes. 
A  Visual  Diary,  1980.  6  minutes. 
Savage/Love,  1981.  1 ",  25Vi  minutes. 
Tongues,  1982.  1 ",  20  minutes. 
Johanna  Went:  The  Box,  1983.  4  minutes. 
Omette  Coleman:  A  Jazz  Video  Game,  1984.  4Vi  minutes. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  «)  1987  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  40 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF   INDEPENDENT   FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Dorit  Cypis 


January  9-February  7,  1988 


"X-Rayed, "  1987 

Slide /audio  installation.  On  view  continuously. 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday  January  19,  at  2:00. 

Dorit  Cypis  will  be  present. 

Performance  on  Saturday,  January  16,  at  2:00. 


) 


Components 

Multiple  slide  projectors,  slides,  theater  curtain,  projector  stands,  plaster 
casts,  props,  and  audiotape. 

Credits 

Conceived,  photographed,  and  directed  by  Dorit  Cypis.  Performance:  Leeny 
Sack.  Photographic  models:  Anita  Habermas-Scher,  Leeny  Sack.  Sound 
composition:  James  Harry  Taped  vocals:  Marilyn  Habermas-Scher.  Produc- 
tion Manager,  Minneapolis:  Judy  Kepes.  Electrical  engineering  and  construc- 
tion: Thomas  Briggs.  Prop  construction:  Allison  Deller,  David  Swanson. 
Projection  dissolve  programming:  Bruce  Clark,  Russell  Manning  Productions. 


The  notions  of  integrity  and  closure  in  a  text  are  like  that 
of  virginity  in  a  body.  They  assume  that  if  one  does  not 
respect  the  boundaries  between  inside  and  outside,  one 
is  'breaking  and  entering, '  violating  a  property. 

— Jane  Gallop,  The  Daughter's  Seduction 

"X-Rayed"  is  the  fourth  in  a  series  of  multiple  slide  and 
sound  pieces  by  Dorit  Cypis  that  began  with  the  1986 
installation  Love  After  Death.  With  these  projects,  which 
include  the  performances  Love  After  Death :  A  Renaissance 
(1986),  and  A  Phantasmagoria  (1987)  with  Leeny  Sack, 
Cypis  exhumes  the  ghosts  of  dreams,  stories,  and  history 
that  resonate  in  the  densely  textured  images  and  sounds. 
Her  work  involves  the  projection  of  emotionally  and  psy- 
chologically "loaded"  images — variously  drawn  from 
Northern  Renaissance  painting,  haunting  old  family  pho- 
tographs, and  images  of  the  female  body — onto  scrims, 
screens,  and  other  surfaces.  Through  the  use  of  slide  dis- 
solves, and  through  the  spectator's  (or  performer's)  pres- 
ence, which  interferes  with  the  throw  of  the  projection 
beam,  the  spectator  is  engulfed  in  a  collision  of  constantly 
shifting  visual  planes. 

A  theatrical  curtain,  onto  which  large  slide  images  are 
projected,  hangs  at  the  entrance  to  "X-Rayed."  The  act  of 
walking  through  the  curtain  into  the  space  shatters  the 
photographic  illusion,  and,  in  the  process,  breaks  down 
distinctions  between  inside  and  outside,  viewer  and 
viewed. 

In  "X-Rayed,"  Cypis  uses  five  slide  projectors,  one  of 
which  slowly  sweeps  around  the  gallery  walls  and  ceiling, 
causing  the  images  to  continually  mutate,  overlap,  and 
wash  over  the  viewer.  The  mechanics  of  slide  projection 
become  a  metaphor  for  the  mental  activity  of  psycho- 


A  Phantasmagoria,  1987,  with  Leeny  Sack.  An  installation  and  performance 
at  the  Nova  Scotia  College  of  Art  and  Design,  Halifax.  Photograph  by  David 
Miller. 


logical  projection,  whereby  complex  feelings  of  anxiety 
are  externalized  as  hostility,  blame,  or  guilt.  Together, 
the  props,  sounds,  and  large-scale  images  function  as 
provocations,  as  sparks.  The  primary  images,  seen  on  the 
central  screen  in  the  gallery,  are  of  a  woman  (Leeny  Sack) 
looking  at  and  touching  her  body;  these  acts  are  meant  to 
symbolize  the  attempt  at  self-possession  and  self-knowl- 
edge. They  portray  a  female,  not  offering  herself  up  as  a 
passive  object,  but  as  an  active  subject  or,  as  Cypis  puts  it, 
"a  woman  daring  to  imagine  herself." 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  John  D.  and 
Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  George  S.  Kaufman,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


The  attempt  to  reclaim  the  female  body  from  its  status 
as  an  object  of  male  consumption  has  been  central  to  Dorit 
Cypis'  work  in  photography,  installation,  and  performance 
since  1981.  She  seeks  to  affirm  female  sexuality  in  re- 
sponse to  those  who  have  denied  its  centrality  in  women's 
lives.  Her  work  is  also  rooted  in  debates  about  the  repre- 
sentation of  the  female  body  and  the  psychological  and 
ideological  construction  of  meaning.  Rather  than  set  out 
a  series  of  fixed  meanings,  Cypis  attempts  to  make  the 
viewer  conscious  of  these  processes. 

Lucinda  Furlong 

Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


"X-Rayed" 

A  woman  has  been  hunted,  sought,  pursued,  accused  of 
crimes  she  herself  did  not  commit,  stripped  of  her  body, 
denied  of  self,  sacrificed  for  the  crimes  of  others.  She  has 
arrived  full  circle  between  womb  and  tomb,  bordello  and 
funeral  parlor.  The  choice  is  hers  .  .  .  defeat  or  reclama- 
tion, victimization  or  will,  repression  or  transformation. 

"X-Rayed"  is  evidence  of  her  decision  to  uncover  roots,  to 
evoke  memory  stir  emotion,  possess  her  shame  and  fear, 
reclaim  instinct,  to  birth  her  "essential  self."  On  her  jour- 
ney she  must  confront  her  abandoned  selves,  her  pred- 
ators, her  ancestors,  her  sexuality,  her  death.  She  must 
repossess  her  own  body  from  the  inside  out.  She  must 
awaken  from  the  dead. 

"X-Rayed  "  is  a  theater  of  mutability,  a  device  for  transfor- 
mation, where  the  simultaneous  and  continuous  move- 
ment of  image,  sound,  prop,  light,  body,  voice,  language, 
and  environment  together  create  an  evocation.  The  point 
of  departure  is  the  image,  presented  here  in  multiple  slide 
projection,  with  devices  of  performance  used  to  evolve 
and  restructure  the  image,  distorting  and  illuminating 
the  boundaries  of  2-D,  3-D,  and  4-D,  simultaneously  frag- 
menting and  reassembling  new  meanings.  The  source  of 
content  lies  in  the  emotions  and  memories  of  the  body 
as  mutually  inter-reflected  in  history  and  contemporary 
culture.  The  mythlike  fictions  are  grounded  in  a  self- 
conscious  attention  to  form  and  environment,  acknowl- 
edging the  space  they  occupy,  the  interacting  audience, 
and  themselves  as  fictions.  The  audience  is  embedded  in 
this  environment,  challenged  to  become  active  perceivers. 
I  intend  to  evoke  in  the  viewer  a  physiological  sensation  of 
"seeing,"  where  their  own  dreams,  memories,  projections, 
emotions,  desires  are  restimulated,  where  they  recollect 
themselves,  experiencing  the  mind  of  the  body. 

It  is  through  the  body  that  transformation  occurs,  where 
energy,  that  essence  of  self,  creates  and  recreates  skin, 
muscles,  bones,  organs,  and  fluids — breathing  in  the  en- 
vironment of  history,  family,  culture — channeling  experi- 
ence, storing  memory,  evoking  emotion,  challenging  un- 
derstanding. It  is  the  repression  of  this  energy  which,  in 
denying  sensation  and  expression,  blocks  the  body  and 
kills  the  self. 

Dorit  Cypis 


Biography 

Dorit  Cypis  was  bom  in  Tel  Aviv,  Israel,  in  1951.  She  studied  sociology  at  Sir 
George  Williams  University,  Montreal,  and  graduated  from  the  Nova  Scotia 
College  of  Art  and  Design.  Halifax  (B.EA.  and  B.A.,  1974)  and  the  California 
Institute  of  the  Arts,  Valencia  (M.EA.,  1977).  She  has  received  grants  and 
fellowships  from  the  Canada  Council  for  the  Arts  (1972).  the  National  Endow- 
ment for  the  Arts  (1979, 1983,  1985),  the  Minnesota  Arts  Board  (1985,  1987),  and 
the  Jerome  Foundation  (1987).  She  has  taught  at  Otis  Art  Institute  of  Parsons 
School  of  Art  and  Design,  Los  Angeles  (1983),  the  Nova  Scotia  College  of  Art  and 
Design  (1987),  and  has  been  on  the  Fme  Arts  faculty  of  the  Minneapolis  College 
of  Art  and  Design  since  1984.  Cypis  lives  and  works  in  Minneapolis. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Thomas  Lewallen  Gallery,  Los  Angeles,  1978 ;  Foundation  for  Art  Resources,  Los 
Angeles,  1979;  White  Columns,  New  York,  1981;  Vehimcule,  Montreal,  1982;  Los 
Angeles  Contemporary  Exhibitions,  1982;  California  Institute  of  the  Arts,  Valen- 
cia, 1983;  Apollohuis,  Eindhoven,  The  Netherlands,  1983;  Thomas  Barry  Fine 
Arts,  Minneapolis,  1987,  in  collaboration  with  John  Schlesinger. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

The  Clocktower,  Institute  for  Art  and  Urban  Resources,  New  York,  "State  of 
Emergency,"  1983;  Artists  Space,  New  York,  "Dark  Rooms,"  1983;  Los  Angeles 
Contemporary  Exhibitions,  "Together  We  Are  a  Part:  A  Tropical  Blend,"  1984; 
Aorta,  Amsterdam,  "Talking  Back  to  the  Media,"  1985;  Film  in  the  Cities,  St. 
Paul,  Minnesota,  "Ex(centric)  Lady  Travelers,"  1985;  Palais  de  Beaux- Arts. 
Brussels,  "Exposition  D'Adieu  de  Karel  Geirlandt,"  1986;  The  Queens  Museum, 
Flushing,  New  York,  "The  Real  Big  Picture,"  1986;  The  New  Museum  of  Contem- 
porary Art,  New  York,  "Three  Photographers:  The  Body,"  1986;  Baskerville  + 
Watson  Gallery,  New  York,  "Heavenly  Embrace,"  1987;  CEPA  Gallery.  Buffalo, 
New  York,  "Sexual  Difference:  Both  Sides  of  the  Camera,"  1987  (traveled). 

Selected  Installations 

All  slides  are  projected  simultaneously,  unless  otherwise  indicated. 

Through  This  Opening  the  Ni .  .  .  ,  1978.  Props,  lighting,  30-second  audio  loop. 

The  Quest  of  the  Impresario: 

A  Reconstruction,  1981  Overhead  projector,  theater  spotlights; 

A  Re-emergence,  1982.  Overhead  projector,  wall  mural,  12-minute  audio  loop; 

Courage,  1982.  Photo  marquee,  3  slide  projectors,  slides,  3-minute  audio  loop; 

Still  to  Be  Seen,  1983.  Photo  marquee,  3  slide  projectors,  slides,  3-minute 

audio  loop. 

Still  Cinema:  Talking  Pictures,  1983.  4  slide  projectors,  slides,  scrim,  two 

6-minute  audio  loops  (simultaneous). 

Vanity.  Just  a  Split  Second  Away,  1985  2  slide  projectors,  slides. 

Body  Talk:  The  Panorama  Story,  1986.  1  slide  projector,  slides. 

Incantation,  1986.  3  slide  projectors,  slides,  furniture,  back-lit  transparencies, 

3-minute  audio  loop. 

Love  After  Death,  1986  5  slide  projectors  (3  simultaneous,  2  continuous 

dissolve),  slides,  theater  curtain,  scrim,  12-minute  audio  loop. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Cypis,  Dont.  "His  Story  Is  Real."  High  Performance,  3  (Fall/Winter  1980), 
pp.  28-29. 

.  "Death  Masks."  New  Observations,  44  (Winter  1987),  pp  6-8. 

Hanhardt,  John  G.  "Re-forming  Cinema:  Film  as  Installation ."  In  Dark  Rooms 

(exhibition  catalogue).  New  York:  Artists  Space,  1983. 

Norklun,  Kathi.  "Fascinating  Incompleteness."  Artweek,  14  (April  23,  1983), 

p.  8. 

Riddle,  Mason.  "Dont  Cypis"  Artforum,  25  (March  1987),  pp.  135-36. 

Solomon-Godeau,  Abigail.  "Sexual  Difference:  Both  Sides  of  the  Camera." 

CEPA  Quarterly,  2  (Spnng/Summer  1987),  pp  17-24.  Exhibition  catalogue. 

Three  Photographers:  The  Body  (exhibition  catalogue)  Essay  by  William 

Olander  New  York:  The  New  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art,  1986. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


i 


Copyright  «j  1988  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   4 1 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


St.  Clair  Bourne 


.3-28,  1988 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  February  23,  at  5:45. 

St.  Clair  Bourne  and  Clyde  Taylor  will  be  present. 


) 


■1 


Though  St.  Clair  Bourne  is  still  a  young  man,  his  work  falls 
squarely  within  the  formative  development  of  black  docu- 
mentary. It  is  well  known  that  the  first  black  independent 
film  was  produced  in  1910  by  William  Foster.  But  nobody 
knows  or  even  asks  who  made  the  first  black  doc- 
umentary. 

Black  documentary?  Is  this  another  fragmentizing  la- 
bel? To  recognize  this  phenomenon  in  film  history,  we 
must  separate  it  from  the  representation  of  blacks  in  non- 
fiction  films,  which  began  in  early  nickelodeon  cameos 
with  scenes  of,  say,  a  black  peasant  eating  watermelon. 
An  important  but  neglected  moment  in  film  representa- 
tion arrived  when  blacks  began  to  encode  images  of  non- 
fictional  "truth"  as  they  saw  it. 

Carlton  Moss  wrote  and  directed  (without  credit)  The 
Negro  Soldier  in  1943.  But  the  primary  history  of  black 
documentary  began  in  the  1960s  with  Bill  Greaves,  the 
first  major  black  documentarian  and  still  a  prominent 
voice  in  the  field.  As  executive  director  of  Black  Journal 
(1968-71),  an  NET  series,  Greaves  organized  a  training 
program  around  a  corps  of  young  black  filmmakers, 
among  them  St.  Clair  Bourne,  who  would  later  lay  the 
foundation  for  the  black  documentary.  The  mission  of 
Black  Journal  was  to  show  to  black  spectators  the  world 
as  seen  by  black  observers,  an  overdue  innovation  in  mo- 
tion media.  Black  documentarians  like  Greaves,  Bourne, 
and  many  others  began  working  to  recode  the  non-fic- 
tional representation  of  black  experience. 

Bourne's  Black  Journal  films  immediately  challenged 
the  normative  coding  of  blacks  as  victim-objects  who  con- 
stituted a  "problem."  In  his  work,  like  that  of  other  Black 
Journal  filmmakers,  blacks  are  introduced  as  subjects,  as 
speakers-for- themselves.  The  traditional  "flat"  image  of 
blacks  is  humanized  by  the  incorporation  of  the  black 
individual  and  group  subjectivity,  that  is,  cultural  person- 
ality. The  search  for  group  subjectivity  has  led  Bourne,  and 
many  of  his  colleagues,  to  focus  on  black  artists  and  cre- 
ators, as  in  Afro-Dance  (1969-70)  and  Big  City  Blues  (1981). 
Another  reason  for  this  focus  may  be  that  many  black 
documentarians,  given  the  limited  opportunities  open  to 
them,  are  responding  to  pressure  from  their  funding 
sources  by  adopting  "acceptable"  topics,  such  as  black 
performers  and  painters.  Bourne,  however,  managed  to 


step  out  of  that  pattern  in  The  South :  Black  Student  Move- 
ments (1969),  The  Nation  of  Common  Sense  (1970),  and  Let 
the  Church  Say  Amen!  (1973),  among  other  films.  The  key 
to  his  construction  of  black  subjectivity  is  not  merely  per- 
formance, but  the  expressivity  of  his  subjects  as  cultural 
archetypes.  Therefore,  cultural  self-representation,  as  it  is 
forced  to  operate  against  socio-economic  constraints, 
comes  into  play  in  Soul,  Sounds,  and  Money  (1969),  a  film 
about  blacks  contending  with  the  business  side  of  the 
music  industry. 

Bourne,  like  most  black  non-fictional  directors,  has 
sought  to  subvert  and  dissolve  the  anthropological  mode 
inherent  in  white  reportage  on  blacks.  He  assaults  this 
"white-on-black"  convention,  with  its  authoritarian  gaze, 
its  univocal,  "voice-of-God"  narrations,  its  claim  to  "objec- 
tivity" Bourne's  films,  reflecting  the  influence  of  the  cin- 
ema-verite  style,  largely  dispense  with  voiceover  narra- 
tions. Let  the  Church  Say  Amen!,  for  example,  reveals  a 
commitment  to  formal  strategies  that  open  the  discursive 
relationship  between  film  and  viewer.  Focusing  on  a  young 
black  theological  student  as  he  contemplates  a  career  in 
the  ministry  it  effects  a  transcultural  recoding  of  a  worn 
staple  of  white-on-black  imagery,  the  black  preacher.  In 
following  the  student's  encounters  with  three  different 
styles  of  black  religious  leadership,  Bourne  brings  ambigu- 
ity and  nuance  to  a  role  simplistically  treated  in  American 
culture  as  an  icon  of  black  life.  As  viewers  watch  these 
different  leaders  speak  to  the  student  directly,  they  be- 
come party  to  a  dialogic  exchange  that  opens  up  the 
complexity  of  the  subject. 

A  similar  dialogic  strategy  is  employed  in  The  Black  and 
the  Green  (1983),  a  film  that  follows  a  group  of  black,  non- 
violent activists  to  embattled  Northern  Ireland.  There 
they  meet  with  partisans  of  the  Irish  independence  move- 
ment, who  acknowledge  the  inspiration  of  the  U.S.  civil 
rights  movement,  but  feel  that  a  non-violent  strategy 
won't  work  for  them.  These  diverging  positions  on  the 
conduct  of  popular  struggles,  and  the  shifting  attitudes  of 
some  of  the  black  activists,  challenge  viewers'  inclinations 
toward  frozen  ideological  positions. 

Bourne  has  described  himself  as  "humanistically  politi- 
cal." His  films  move  beyond  network  news  aesthetics, 
which  frame  blacks  as  sometimes  talented  victims  of 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  John  D.  and 
Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  George  S.  Kaufman,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


sociology.  Bourne  frames  his  subjects  with  an  eye  toward 
a  different  balance,  searching  for  that  terrible  brilliance 
found  in  black  American  discourse  which  expresses  itself 
against  reflex  denials  from  normative  culture.  It  poses 
another  balance  as  well — to  rewrite  the  established  para- 
digms of  non-fictional  black  portrayal  while  concretizing 
and  diversifying  black  self-revelation  in  an  expanding  in- 
ternational context. 

Such  a  program  places  Bourne's  work  at  the  hotter 
edges  of  black  documentary,  where  resistances  and  con- 
troversy are  made  overt.  PBS  refused  to  air  The  Black  and 
the  Green  because  it  was  politically  controversial.  And  a 
reviewer  for  The  New  York  Times  praised  the  craft  of  In 
Motion:  Amiri  Baraka  (1982),  a  tape  about  the  controver- 
sial poet  Amiri  Baraka,  but  retreated  behind  his  own  dis- 
cursive boundaries  by  describing  it  as  "agitprop."  What  he 
objected  to  was  the  portrayal  of  Baraka  as  an  intense  but 
warm  human  being,  that  is,  as  he  is  known  in  the  black 
community. 

Bourne's  latest  works,  In  Motion  and  Langston  Hughes: 
The  Dream  Keeper  (1986),  have  begun  to  take  on  a  terrible 
brilliance  of  their  own,  matching  in  style  the  character  of 
two  major  black  American  poets.  In  Motion,  with  its  lean 
and  rhythmic  movement,  captures  the  spirit  of  one  of 
America's  most  restless  literary  figures.  It  also  suggests 
Bourne's  own  persisting  fascination  with  movement, 
transformation,  and  the  shifting  coloration  of  social  and 
cultural  ideas. 

Langston  Hughes:  The  Dream  Keeper  collates  the  ener- 
gies and  directions  of  Bourne's  other  films  into  a  most 
powerful  formal  elegance.  New  figurative  strategies  come 
into  play:  slow  motion,  disappearing  images,  expres- 
sionist rituals  of  movement  and  costume,  arresting  mon- 
tages, and  densely  layered  sound  imagery.  The  trans- 
cultural  recoding  implicit  in  black  documentary  finds  an 
urbane  signature  in  a  sequence  depicting  Hughes'  anti- 
Fascist  activities  during  the  Spanish  Civil  War  and  World 
War  n.  A  montage  of  Hitler's  troops  marching  on  Europe 
unfolds  over  the  sound  track  of  Lena  Home  singing  a 
popular  blues.  For  a  change,  historical  time  is  marked 
through  the  reference  of  a  familiar  black  voice,  resonant 
with  meaning  for  Hughes  and  black  viewers.  Part  of  the 
film's  success  lies  in  the  measure  by  which  Hughes'  re- 
cited poems  come  to  dominate  its  many  voices  and  formal 
strategies,  not  as  quoted  illustrations,  but  as  the  control- 
ling subjective  point  of  view.  His  imagination  seems  to  live 
in  and  shape  the  film.  The  lyrical  and  reportorial  reach  a 
high  state  of  fused  compression,  and  black  documentary 
attains  one  of  its  most  distinguished  moments  of  maturity. 
Through  such  work,  Bourne  has  formulated  an  alternative 
platform  of  discursive  authority  that  contests  the  grounds 
and  limits  of  "minority  programming." 


Biography 

St.  Clair  Bourne  was  bom  in  New  York  in  1943.  He  studied  at  the  Edmund 
A.  Walsh  School  of  Foreign  Service  at  Georgetown  University  (1960-63), 
Syracuse  University  (B.A.,  1967),  and  the  Graduate  School  of  the  Arts, 
Columbia  University  (1967-68).  From  1968  to  1971.  Bourne  was  a  producer, 
director,  and  writer  for  Black  Journal,  which  received  a  series  Emmy  award 
in  1970.  Bourne's  awards  for  documentary  filmmaking  include  first  prizes 
from  the  Black  Filmmakers  Hall  of  Fame  (1981)  and  the  Global  Village 
Documentary  Festival  (1983).  He  has  received  grants  from  the  National 
Endowment  for  the  Arts  (1977,  1978),  the  National  Endowment  for  the 
Humanities  (1979-80),  and  a  Charles  Revson  Fellowship  from  Columbia 
University.  Bourne  lives  and  works  in  New  York. 


Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  New  York,  1974;  The  Studio 
Museum  in  Harlem,  New  York,  1974;  The  New  American  Filmmakers 
Senes,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1974;  Pacific  Film 
Archive,  University  Art  Museum,  University  of  California,  Berkeley.  1975; 
African  Film  Society,  San  Francisco,  1976;  Svenska  Filminstitutet,  Stock- 
holm, 1979;  Center  for  New  Television,  Chicago,  1985;  The  High  Museum 
of  Art,  Atlanta,  1986;  Port  Washington  Public  Library,  New  York,  1988. 


Selected  Festivals  and  Group  Exhibitions 

International  Film  and  Television  Festival  of  New  York,  1973 ;  Second  World 
African  Festival  of  Arts  and  Culture,  Lagos,  Nigena,  1975;  Jamaica  Film 
Festival,  Kingston,  1975;  New  Directors/New  Films,  The  Museum  of  Mod- 
em Art,  New  York,  1976;  Moscow  Film  Festival,  1977;  Global  Village 
Documentary  Film  Festival,  New  York,  1982,  1983,  1987;  Hawaii  Interna- 
tional Film  Festival,  Honolulu,  1987. 


Selected  Filmography  and  Videography 

All  works  are  16mm,  color  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 
TheSouth:  Black  Student  Movements,  1969, 18  minutes;  Malcolm  X  Libera- 
tion University,  1969,  18  minutes;  Soul,  Sounds  and  Money,  1969,  26  min- 
utes; Afro-Dance,  1969-70,  9  minutes;  The  Nation  of  Common  Sense,  1970, 
18  minutes;  Let  the  Church  Say  Amen!,  1973,  60  minutes;  Big  City  Blues, 
1981,  28  minutes;  In  Motion:  Amiri  Baraka,  1982,  W  videotape,  58  min- 
utes; The  Black  and  the  Green,  1983,  45  minutes;  On  The  Boulevard,  1984. 
28  minutes;  Langston  Hughes:  The  Dream  Keeper,  1986,  57  minutes. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Aronsson,  Gunnar.  "St.  Clair  Bourne  och  den  Oberoende  svarte  Filman.' 

Filmhaftet,  1  (June  1978),  pp.  74-77. 
Blair,  Thomas.  "Images  of  Cultural  Unity"  In  Retreat  to  the  Ghetto. 

New  York:  Hill  and  Wang,  1977,  pp.  128,  135. 
Cnpps,  Thomas.  Black  Film  as  Genre  Bloomington;  Indiana  University 

Press,  1978,  pp.  55,  87,  90,  101,  103,  148-49. 
Covert,  Nadine.  "Who's  Who  in  Filmmaking:  St.  Clair  Bourne." 

Sightlines,  8  (Spring  1975),  pp.  17-18,  31-32. 
Gabriel,  T.S.  "Images  of  Black  People  in  Cinema."  In  Ufahamu,  6,  no.  2 

(1976),  pp.  133-67. 


«< 


Clyde  Taylor 
Guest  Curator 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  NY  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  '>  1988  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Ait 


Whitney  Museum  of  AmericanArt  42 
i    The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Liz  Phillips 


March  8-April  10,  1988 


Graphite  Ground,  1987  Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  March  22,  at  6:30. 

Interactive  audio  installation.  On  view  continuously.      Liz  Phillips  will  be  present. 


) 


J 


Components 

Electronic  system:  4  ADS  L880  loudspeakers,  2  Carver  amplifiers  (stereo), 
Apple  He  computer  system,  Serge  Modular  Music  System,  peripherals, 
power  supplies,  interface  boards,  cables,  4  capacitance  field  generators; 
4  speaker  pedestals;  4  scrim  walls;  wood  walkway;  11  rocks  containing 
natural  copper  ore,  shale,  and  quartz;  Arizona  flagstone;  100  pounds  of 
uncombed  wool. 

The  artist  wishes  to  thank  the  following  for  production  assistance: 
Richard  Whiteman  of  Red  Metal  Minerals,  Serge  Tcherepnin  of  Serge 
Modular  Music  Systems,  Capp  Street  Project,  Parabola  Arts  Foundation, 
Inc.,  John  Bishop,  Philip  Edelstein,  Audrey  Chang,  Roy  Tomlinson,  Kim 
Wharton,  Heidi  and  Earl  Howard. 


Liz  Phillips  is  one  of  America's  leading  audio  installation 
artists.  Her  sound  art  is  distinguished  by  the  sophisti- 
cated computer  and  audio  technology  she  has  developed 
to  produce  a  complex  and  rich  harmonic  and  tonal  range. 
The  installation  of  these  instruments  and  the  electronic 
sounds  they  produce  are  closely  related  to  the  spaces  they 
occupy.  Phillips  employs  a  variety  of  formal  strategies  to 
transform  gallery,  performance,  and  public  spaces  into 
compelling  audio  environments. 

In  1985  Liz  Phillips  was  invited  to  create  an  installation 
for  the  1985  Biennial  Exhibition  at  the  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art.  Whitney  Windspun  was  designed  for  the 
architectural  space  of  the  Museum's  Sculpture  Garden 
and  the  building's  exterior  surfaces.  Four  small  sensors, 
which  detected  the  speed  and  direction  of  the  wind,  were 
placed  at  various  points  on  the  facade.  The  sensors  were 
linked  to  a  computer-driven  audio  system  that  produced  a 
varied  range  of  sounds  which  changed  according  to  the 
movement  and  direction  of  the  wind  as  it  blew  around  the 
Museum.  As  one  entered  the  building  and  looked  down 
into  the  Sculpture  Garden  or  walked  within  it,  the  unseen 
interplay  of  the  changing  atmosphere  with  the  environ- 
ment became  "visible"  as  sound  heard  from  speakers 
placed  at  both  ends  of  the  garden.  The  spectator  is  always 
keenly  aware  of  the  time  spent  within  a  Phillips  installa- 
tion because  duration  is  measured  by  continually  modu- 
lating sounds. 

With  Graphite  Ground,  Phillips'  latest  installation,  the 
artist  transforms  the  Film  and  Video  Gallery  into  an  audio 


Graphite  Ground,  1987.  Installation  at  Capp  Street  Project,  San  Fran- 
cisco. Photograph  by  Ben  Blackwell. 


rock  garden.  In  this  project,  the  visitor  can  walk  down  a 
pathway  winding  through  the  gallery  upon  which  are 
placed  large  groupings  of  rocks.  The  visitor's  movements 
and  proximity  to  the  rocks  alter  the  timbre,  pitch,  and 
volume  of  the  complex  of  sound  waves  emanating  from 
these  formations.  Phillips  thus  creates  an  environment 
where  natural  elements  conduct  and  radiate  sound  fields. 
These  sounds  are  created  by  an  electronic  sound  system 
which  employs  computers,  amplifiers,  and  speakers  to 
channel,  analyze,  and  amplify  the  sounds  in  response  to 
the  spectator's  movements.  An  audio  and  temporal  dy- 
namic is  established  between  the  rocks  and  the  presence 
of  people,  as  the  delicate  arrays  of  sound  fill  the  spaces 
between  and  the  crevices  within  the  rock  formations. 

Liz  Phillips'  audio  installations  represent  a  sophisticated 
extension  of  the  medium  of  sound  from  its  traditional 
confines  in  the  concert  hall  and  the  recording.  For  Phillips, 
audio  becomes  a  sensory  medium  that  transforms  how  we 
perceive  a  space  through  our  interaction  with  sound.  In 
designing  the  audio  instruments,  she  has  incorporated  a 
dense,  complex,  and  constantly  changing  audio  program. 
Her  computer-driven  systems  do  not  repeat  sounds  or  play 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  John  D.  and 
Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  George  S.  Kaufman,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


compositions,  but  shift  and  alter  their  textures  and  dy- 
namics by  the  changes  that  occur  within  the  installations. 
In  this  way,  Phillips  creates  unique  experiences  for  every 
spectator  and  every  moment  in  time.  The  result  is  an 
extension  of  audio  into  installation  art  and  the  transforma- 
tion of  sound  into  a  new  form  of  kinetic  sculpture. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Biography 

Liz  Phillips  was  bom  in  Jersey  City,  New  Jersey,  in  1951,  and  studied  at 
Bennington  College,  Vermont  (B.A.,  1973).  She  has  received  grants  from 
the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  (1976,  1981,  1983,  1984,  1985,  1987), 
Creative  Artists  Public  Service  (1977, 1982),  the  Beard  Fund  (1981),  the  New 
York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  (1984,  1986),  and  the  John  Simon  Gug- 
genheim Foundation  (1987).  Phillips  has  been  an  artist-in-residence  at 
numerous  institutions  and  arts  centers,  including  Harvard  University 
(1974),  the  Minneapolis  College  of  Art  and  Design  (1980),  and  Capp  Street 
Project,  San  Francisco  (1987).  In  1981,  she  co-founded  the  Parabola  Arts 
Foundation,  Inc.,  New  York.  Phillips  lives  in  New  York. 


Graphite  Ground 

Graphite  Ground,  an  interactive  sound  sculpture  installa- 
tion, creates  a  physical  setting  reminiscent  of  a  Japanese 
rock  garden.  Large  shards  of  raw  copper  ore  rest  at  the 
four  comers  of  the  space.  Wooden  walkways  traverse  the 
floor,  and  pink  Arizona  flagstones  serve  as  stepping 
stones.  The  walls  and  ceilings  are  painted  a  soft  platinum 
gray,  and  fleecy  wool  (like  that  used  as  sound  insulation) 
covers  the  floor  like  a  luminous  cloud.  Four  large  speakers 
are  placed  in  the  corners  of  the  room.  In  an  enclosure  in  the 
center  of  the  room  rests  the  "heart  and  brain"  of  the 
piece — the  computer  and  synthesizer — which  can  be 
seen  through  a  milky  scrim. 

Sound  events  are  located  within  this  quadriphonic 
soundscape.  Each  object  can  be  physically  approached  by 
the  audience  from  a  different  perspective  and  each  shift  of 
audience  position  creates  transformations  in  the  sound- 
scape.  Sound  moves  through  orbits  and  spreads  like  a 
calm  mist.  Sonic  forms  build  up  and  decay,  based  upon  the 
figure's  timing  and  position  in  this  intimate  sculptural 
space. 

Graphite  Ground  will  use  capacitance  fields,  as  did  Sun- 
spots  and  previous  works  (1971-81).  These  fields  elec- 
tronically sense  the  nearness  of  people  to  the  objects  that 
radiate  them.  In  the  past,  all  the  objects  were  made  of 
processed  metal.  In  this  piece,  all  objects  are  rock  forma- 
tions with  conductive  concentrations  of  natural  copper 
ore.  Four  rocks  each  radiate  capacitance  fields.  Using  com- 
puterized circuits,  these  fields  can  be  run  for  the  first  time 
in  multiples.  These  new  computer  circuits  can  also  self- 
adapt  to  incorporate  changes  in  the  weather  and  quan- 
tities of  people  in  threshold  areas. 

In  Graphite  Ground,  I  attempt  to  explore  and  integrate 
concepts  of  electronic  ground  and  natural  ground;  elec- 
tronically activated  space  with  sculptural  space;  the  reso- 
nance of  an  object  or  a  space  with  sonic  fantasies  of  that 
object's  history.  Potential  energy  (voltage)  is  a  tool  for 
measuring  and  apportioning  time  and  space  when  it  is 
reflected  in  sound  events.  Sound  is  used,  as  in  nature,  to 
voice  physical  events,  functioning  as  both  signal  and 
music. 

Liz  Phillips 


Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Reese  Palley  Gallery,  San  Francisco,  1971;  Artists  Space,  New  York,  1974; 
The  Kitchen,  New  York,  1975;  Rene  Block  Gallery,  Berlin,  West  Germany 
1978;  Stedelijk  Museum,  Amsterdam,  1978;  Walker  Art  Center,  Min- 
neapolis, 1982;  Wadsworth  Atheneum,  Hartford,  1983;  Jacob's  Pillow  Lee, 
Massachusetts,  1985;  Capp  Street  Project,  San  Francisco,  1987. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

69th  Infantry  Regiment  Armory,  New  York,  "Eighth  Annual  New  York 
Avant-Garde  Festival,"  1971 ;  Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York, 
"Sumtime,"  1973;  San  Francisco  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  "New  Music 
America  '81";  Neuberger  Museum,  State  University  of  New  York,  College 
at  Purchase,  New  York,  "Soundings,"  1982;  Park  Avenue  Armory,  New 
York,  in  collaboration  with  the  Merce  Cunningham  Dance  Company,  "So- 
nar Eclipse,"  1983;  IBM  Japan,  Tokyo,  "Think  Pocket,"  1984;  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  "1985  Biennial  Exhibition";  The 
Clocktower,  New  York,  "Engaging  Objects:  The  Participatory  Art  of  Mir- 
rors, Mechanisms,  and  Shelters,"  1986. 

Selected  Interactive  Audio  Installations 

Broken/ Unbroken  lerracotta,  The  Kitchen,  New  York,  1975. 

City  Flow,  City  University  Graduate  Center  Mall,  New  York,  1977. 

Metrosonic  Province,  Haags  Gemeentemuseum,  The  Hague, 

The  Netherlands,  1978. 
Sunspots,  Akademie  der  Kiinste,  Berlin,  West  Germany,  1980. 
Windspun  for  Minneapolis,  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis,  1980. 
Come  About,  The  Katonah  Gallery,  Katonah,  New  York,  1981. 
Multiple  Perspectives  (sponsored  by  the  Cleveland  Orchestra), 

Blossom  Music  Center,  Cleveland,  1981. 
Sound  Syzygy,  Walker  Art  Center,  Minneapolis,  1982. 
Whitney  Windspun,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York, 

"1985  Biennial  Exhibition." 
Cymbal,  San  Diego  State  University  Art  Gallery,  1985. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Ahlstrom,  David.  "Liz  Phillips:  'Sunspots.'  "  Computer  Music  Journal,  6 

(Fall  1982),  p.  84. 
Baker,  Kenneth.  'Art  for  the  Ears  at  Capp  Street  Project."  7?ie  San 

Francisco  Chronicle,  January  1,  1988,  p.  E2. 
Reveaux,  Tony.  "The  Responsive  Rocks  "  Artweek,  18  (December  26, 

1987),  p.  5. 
Rockwell,  John  "Avant-Garde:  Liz  Phillips  Sound"  The  New  York  Times, 

May  14,  1981,  p.  C16. 
Sanders,  Linda.  "Catching  the  Night  Plain;  Sonic  Syzygy."  The  Village 

Voice,  30  (August  27,  1985),  p.  C6. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York.  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  o  1988  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Ait 


WhitneyMuseumofAmericanArt  43 
The  New  American  rainmakers  Series 

EXHIBITIONS  OF  INDEPENDENT  FILM  AND  VIDEO 


Peter  Campus:  Projected  Images 


Ju 


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Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  June  21,  at  6:30. 
Peter  Campus  will  be  present. 


Head  of  a  Man  with  Death  on  His  Mind,  1978 
Video  installation 

Murmur,  1987 
Photo-projection  installation 

Untitled  photo-projection  installation,  1988 

All  works  are  courtesy  of  the  Paula  Cooper  Gallery,  New  York 


This  exhibition  presents  Head  of  a  Man  with  Death  on  His 
Mind  (1978),  the  last  work  Peter  Campus  produced  in 
video,  alongside  his  most  recent  photographic  installa- 
tions. This  juxtaposition  offers  an  opportunity  to  contrast 
the  properties  of  these  media  and  the  unique  ways  Cam- 
pus has  used  them. 

Even  though  he  has  worked  exclusively  in  photography 
for  the  past  ten  years,  Peter  Campus  is  one  of  the  key 
figures  in  the  history  of  video  as  an  art  form.  The  video 
installations  and  videotapes  he  created  between  1971  and 
1978  considered  the  fashioning  of  the  self  through  the 
artist's  and  spectator's  relationship  to  image  making.  Un- 
derlying the  formal  strategies  of  Campus'  art  is  an  explora- 
tion of  the  unique  electronic  image  recording  and  trans- 
forming characteristics  of  video. 

One  of  these  characteristics  is  the  ability  of  the  viewer  to 
see  on  the  monitor's  screen  in  real  time  what  the  video 
camera  is  recording.  Unlike  photography  and  cinema,  one 
does  not  have  to  process  the  electronic  image  in  order  to 
screen  it.  There  is,  then,  a  direct  and  immediate  rela- 
tionship to  the  image  as  it  is  created.  Campus  exploited 
this  property  in  works  that  remain  compelling  and  subtle 
meditations  on  the  self. 

Campus'  investigations  into  the  apparatus  of  the  video 
system  and  the  relationship  of  the  camera  to  the  space  it 
occupied  were  elaborated  in  a  series  of  installations  that 
included  mem  (1975).  Here  Campus  turned  the  camera 
onto  the  body  of  the  spectator  and  then  projected  the 
resulting  image  onto  the  gallery  wall  at  an  angle.  The 
viewer  was  then  confronted  with  a  distorted  and  ambigu- 
ous self-portrait  that  mysteriously  shimmered  in  the 
darkness.  This  work  forged  a  complex  phenomenological 
inquiry  into  the  ontology  of  materials  and  one's  own  pres- 
ence when  experiencing  the  aesthetic  text. 


Head  of  a  Man  with  Death  on  His  Mind,  1978.  Installation  at  the 
Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  1978. 


In  addition  to  these  environmental  installations,  Cam- 
pus made  a  series  of  videotapes  produced  by  the  New 
Television  Workshop  at  WGBH-TV  in  Boston.  One  of  these 
works,  Three  Transitions  (1973),  explored  portraiture 
through  the  use  of  chroma-keying.  In  one  of  the  "transi- 
tions" we  see  Campus  burning  a  sheet  of  paper  which 
appears  to  contain  his  own  live  image.  Through  chroma- 
keying,  the  paper  is  replaced  with  a  live  image  of  the  artist 
so  that  he  observes  an  illusion  of  his  own  face  being 
burned.  In  this  way  Campus  fused  a  Magritte-like  Sur- 
realism with  a  self-referential  Minimalism. 

In  1978  Campus  pursued  portraiture  within  the  format 
of  large-scale  projected  video.  In  Head  of  a  Man  with 
Death  on  His  Mind,  the  video  projector  is  placed  on  the 
gallery  floor  and  the  image  is  viewed  on  the  wall.  On  the 
videotape,  the  artist  recorded  the  face  of  actor  John 
Erdman.  Through  framing  and  lighting,  the  face  is  subtly 
transformed,  becoming  a  stark  and  dramatic  presence. 
The  vaguely  threatening  quality  of  Erdman's  countenance 
is  enhanced  by  the  barely  visible  movement  of  the  re- 
corded image.  Thus  the  portrait  breathes  a  life  of  its  own, 
heightening  its  psychological  power.  Campus  has  created 
a  bold  synthesis  of  the  video  portrait  and  the  installation 
format. 


The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman 
Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  John  D.  and  Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc., 
the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Since  1979  Campus  has  directed  his  creative  energies  to 
photographs  and  slide  installations.  His  latest  slide  projec- 
tions provide  a  dramatic  contrast  to  the  projected  video 
portrait.  The  photographic  slide  is  a  static  single  image  of 
a  form  from  nature  (rock,  vegetable,  shell)  which  under- 
goes a  transformation  through  subtle  lighting  and  the 
photographic  flattening  of  the  object.  Campus  furthers 
the  transformation  by  enlarging  the  image  through  pro- 
jection onto  the  gallery  wall  until  it  becomes  a  silvery, 
ghostlike  photographic  presence. 

Ultimately  Campus'  art,  in  both  its  video  and  photo- 
graphic forms,  represents  a  continuing  exploration  of  the 
material  and  psychological  basis  of  the  image,  a  sustained 
and  sophisticated  inquiry  into  art  and  artmaking. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


1978  This  videotape  projection  work  is  from  a  dark  period 
in  my  life.  I  was  trying  to  look  into  myself  as  someone 
would  look  into  a  mirror,  to  discover  the  shadow  side  of  my 
being.  It  was  made  with  the  actor  John  Erdman.  My  in- 
structions to  him  -were  to  gaze  into  the  lens,  moving  as 
little  as  possible.  I  wanted  John  to  project  into  the  camera 
an  understanding  of  this  dark  side,  to  project  a  com- 
prehension of  mortality,  of  finality,  and  what  he  felt  about 
it.  The  title  of  the  work,  Head  of  a  Man  with  Death  on  His 
Mind,  came  afterward.  I  manipulated  a  number  of  the 
video  controls,  distorting  the  whites  out  of  the  accepted 
range,  to  form  a  mask  around  the  face,  distorting  the 
blacks  to  disappear  into  each  other  like  a  pool  of  the 
unknown. 

1987  Nine  years  later  my  inner  looking  is  modified.  I  have 
turned  to  nature  for  subject  matter.  I  am  looking  for  con- 
gruences, my  nature  with  nature.  Murmur  is  a  heart,  a 
skull,  a  stone,  an  aberration,  a  projection  of  light  on  a  wall 
of  something  that  does  not  exist.  Time  and  the  ocean  have 
worn  at  this  stone,  found  its  flaws.  So  it  is  with  me.  I  like  its 
stoneness.  I  like  the  metaphor  for  the  wearing-down  pro- 
cess. I  felt  it  expressed  the  feelings  I  have  inside  me.  When 
I  first  installed  this  work  at  Paula  Cooper  Gallery,  I  walked 
into  the  dark  room  from  the  street,  my  eyes  still  dazzled  by 
the  light,  and  saw  Murmur  floating  out  at  me,  an  imma- 
tenal  thought  or  memory,  reflecting  myself.  It  had  come 
full  circle,  this  looking  inward  and  looking  outward. 

Peter  Campus 


Biography 

Peter  Campus  was  born  in  New  York  City  in  1937  He  studied  experimental 
psychology  at  Ohio  State  University  (B.S.,  1960)  and  attended  the  City 
College  Film  Institute,  New  York  (1961-62)  Campus  was  an  artist-in- 
residence  at  WNET's  TV  Lab,  New  York  (1974)  and  at  WGBH,  Boston 
(1973-74,  1976)  He  has  received  fellowships  from  the  John  Simon  Gug- 
genheim Foundation  (1975)  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts 
(1976).  Campus  has  taught  at  the  Massachusetts  Institute  of  Technology 
(1976-78),  the  Rhode  Island  School  of  Design  (1982-83),  and  has  been 
Associate  Professor  of  Arts  and  Media  at  New  York  University  since  1984. 
He  lives  and  works  in  New  York 


Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

Bykert  Gallery,  New  York,  1972,  1973,  1975;  Hayden  Gallery,  Massachu- 
setts Institute  of  Technology,  Cambridge,  1976,  1983 ;  Leo  Castelli  Gallery, 
New  York,  1976;  The  Museum  of  Modem  Art,  New  York,  1976;  The  New 
American  Filmmakers  Series,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New 
York,  1978;  Kolnischer  Kunstverein,  Cologne,  1979  (traveled);  Paula  Cooper 
Gallery,  New  York,  1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987;  Musee  National 
d'Art  Modeme,  Centre  Georges  Pompidou,  Paris,  1980;  Institute  of  Con- 
temporary Art,  University  of  Pennsylvania,  Philadelphia,  1987;  Galleria 
Civica  d'Arte  Modema,  Ferrara,  Italy,  1988. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  "1973  Biennial  Exhibition"; 
Everson  Museum  of  Art,  Syracuse,  New  York,  "Circuits:  A  Video  Invita- 
tional," 1973  (traveled);  Kolnischer  Kunstverein,  Cologne,  "Project  '74"; 
Documenta  6,  Kassel,  West  Germany,  1977;  Walker  Art  Center,  Min- 
neapolis, "The  Elusive  Image,"  1979;  Stadtische  Kunsthalle,  Dusseldorf, 
West  Germany,  "Schwarz,"  1981;  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New 
York,  "New  American  Video  Art:  A  Historical  Survey,  1967-1980,"  1984 
(traveled) ;  Los  Angeles  County  Museum  of  Art,  "Photography  and  Art, 
1946-1986,"  1987  (traveled);  Long  Beach  Museum  of  Art,  California, 
"Planes  of  Memory:  Peter  Campus,  Beryl  Korot,  Bruce  Nauman,"  1988. 

Selected  Video  Installations 

Kiva,  1971.  Video  camera,  monitor,  2  mirrors. 

Mer,  1972.  Video  camera,  monitor,  quartz  lighting,  mirrors. 

Stasis,  1973.  2  video  cameras,  video  projector,  rotating  pnsms,  motor. 

Shadow  Projection,  1974.  Video  camera,  video  projector,  quartz  lighting, 

screen. 
mem,  1975.  Video  camera,  video  projector,  red  lighting. 
sev,  1975.  Video  camera,  video  projector,  red  lighting. 
Jus,  1977.  Video  camera,  video  projector,  blue  lighting. 
Head  of  a  Sad  Young  Woman,  1977.  Video  projector;  videotape  playback 

deck;  %"  videotape;  black  and  white,  silent,  12-minute  loop. 
Head  of  a  Man  with  Death  on  His  Mind,  1978.  Video  projector;  videotape 

playback  deck;  %"  videotape;  black  and  white,  silent,  12-minute  loop. 

Photo-projection  Installations 

Each  work  contains  a  projector  and  a  slide;  dimensions  are  vanable. 

Man's  Head,  1978;  Woman's  Head  (series),  1978-79;  Man  Looking,  1979; 
Woman  Looking,  1979;  Half-life,  1987;  Inside  Out,  1987;  Murmur,  1987; 
Transient,  1987. 

Bibliography 

Krauss,  Rosalind.  "Video:  The  Aesthetics  of  Narcissism."  October,  1 

(Spring  1976),  pp.  51-64. 
Kurtz,  Bruce.  "Fields:  Peter  Campus."  Arts  Magazine,  47  (May- June 

1973),  pp.  25-29. 
Kuspit,  Donald.  "Review:  Peter  Campus."  Artforum,  26  (November  1987), 

pp.  129-30. 
Lorber,  Joseph.  "Epistemological  TV."  Art  Journal,  34  (Winter  1974-75), 

pp.  132-34. 
Peter  Campus  (exhibition  catalogue).  Essays  by  Peter  Campus,  Wulf 

Herzogenrath,  and  Roberta  Smith.  Cologne,  West  Germany:  Kolnischer 

Kunstverein,  1979. 

Peter  Campus'  videotapes  are  distributed  by  Electronic  Arts  Intermix, 
New  York. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  0  1988  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  44 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Scrutable  Images:  Chinatown  Demystified 


« 


October  11-November  13, 1988 


Schedule 

All  works  are  16mm,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Tuesdays  at  2:00 

Program  A:  History  Revisited,  C-Town  Revealed 

Pieces  of  a  Dream  (1974),  Eddie  Wong;  30  minutes.  Wong  Sinsaang 
(1971),  Eddie  Wong;  black  and  white,  12  minutes.  I  Am  the  Master 
of  My  Boat  (1976),  Lambert  Yam;  7  minutes.  Chan  Is  Missing  (1981), 
Wayne  Wang;  black  and  white,  80  minutes. 

Tuesdays  at  6:15 

October  11:  Chan  Is  Missing 

October  25:  Family  Gathering,  Nisei  Soldier.  Standard  Bearer  for  an 

Exiled  People 
November  1 :  Dim  Sum 
November  8 :  Freckled  Rice 

Wednesdays  at  Noon 

Program  B:  Mistakes  of  Prejudice 

Family  Gathering  (1988),  Lise  Yasui  and  Ann  Tegnell,  30  minutes. 
Msei  Soldier:  Standard  Bearer  for  an  Exiled  People  (1984),  Lorn  Ding, 
black  and  white  and  color,  29  minutes.  Carved  in  Silence  (1987), 
Felicia  Lowe;  45  minutes. 

Thursdays  at  Noon 

Program  C:  Mothers,  Sons,  and  Daughters 

Sewing  Woman  (1983),  Arthur  Dong;  black  and  white,  14  minutes. 
The  Only  Language  She  Knows  (1983),  Steven  Okazaki;  17  minutes 
Dim  Sum  (1984),  Wayne  Wang,  35mm,  87  minutes. 

Fndays  at  Noon 

Program  D:  A  Culture  Is  Harder  to  Cross  than  an  Ocean 

Afterbirth  (1982),  Jason  Hwang;  black  and  white,  30  minutes. 
Freckled  Rice  (1983),  Stephen  Ning  and  Yuet-fung  Ho;  48  minutes. 

Saturdays  at  Noon 

Program  E:  Where  Do  We  Go  From  Here? 

Bittersweet  Survival  (1981),  Chnsttne  Choy;  30  mmutes.  Dollar  a 
Day,  7en  Cents  a  Dance  (1984),  producer,  George  Ow,  Jr.;  directors, 
Geoffrey  Dunn  and  Mark  Schwartz;  28  mmutes.  The  Fall  of  the  I 
Hotel  (1983),  Curtis  Choy;  57  minutes. 

Sundays  at  1:00 

Program  F:  The  Roles  Expand 

Monterey's  Boat  People  (1982),  Spencer  Nakasako;  3/4"  videotape, 
30  minutes.  Eight-Pound  Livelihood  (1984),  Yuet-fung  Ho;  3/4" 
videotape,  28  minutes.  On  New  Ground  (1982),  Lord  Dmg;  3/4" 
videotape,  30  minutes.  Bowery  Movement  (1988),  Tom  Tarn; 
8mm  videotape,  60  minutes. 

Special  thanks  are  extended  to  Daryl  Chin,  Bill  Gee,  Asian 
Cine- Vision,  and  Third  World  Newsreel  for  their  assistance  in  the 
preparation  of  this  exhibition. 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  October  18  at  6:15 
Luis  Francia,  Christine  Choy,  Loni  Ding, 
Stephen  Ning,  and  Tom  Tarn  will  be  present. 


Afterbirth,  1982.  Jason  Hwang. 


As  a  historical  and  living  reality,  Chinatown  is  far  too 
complex  to  be  summarized  neatly  by  any  one  idea.  How- 
ever, the  images  of  it  that  exist — and  there  are  quite  a 
few — fall  into  two  categories:  those  formulated  by  the 
larger  mainstream  society,  by  observers  not  a  part  of  the 
community  encompassed  by  the  notion  of  "Chinatown" ; 
and  those  springing  from  within,  from  people  who  are  a 
part  of  Chinatown — and  I  mean  not  only  its  inhabitants 
but  also  those  who,  while  living  outside  its  geographical 
boundaries,  are  bound  to  it  in  some  integral  way  by  com- 
mon cultural,  ethnic,  and/or  social  ties.  In  any  society 
where  equity  is  the  norm,  the  ideas  of  those  in  the  second 
category  would  have  primacy.  Yet  it  is  the  outsider  society, 
with  its  too  often  inaccurate  and  stereotypical  representa- 
tions, that  dominates  discourse  on  Chinatown  and  on 
Asians,  the  two  being  in  the  popular  mind  coterminous. 
Charlie  Chan,  Fu  Manchu,  the  Dragon  Lady,  the  kung  fu 
warrior,  the  opium  den:  divorce  these  from  the  outsider's 
images  of  Chinatown  and  the  very  same  images  dissolve 
into  nothingness.  By  such  commonplaces  is  Chinatown 
measured  and  judged. 

Stereotypes  of  course  eliminate  the  need  to  think 
through  attitudes  and  reactions.  They  substitute  prejudg- 
ment of  a  group  for  the  fairer,  though  admittedly  harder, 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  The  Bohen  Foundation,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for 
the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  John  D.  and  Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  The  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Family  Gathering,  1988.  Lise  Yasui  and  Ann  Tegnell. 


Nisei  Soldier:  Standard  Bearer  for  an  Exiled  People,  1984.  Loni  Ding. 


experience  of  interacting  on  an  individual  basis.  Stereo- 
typical misrepresentations  have  in  fact  existed  in  the  pop- 
ular mind  for  well  over  a  hundred  years,  shaped  largely  by 
the  propaganda  of  disinformation — arising  out  of  cultural 
ignorance  and  a  misplaced  sense  of  racial  superiority — 
and  by  a  Hollywood  bent  on  reaping  box  office  success  at 
the  expense  of  complexity  and  individuality  One  need 
only  point  to  such  recent  commercial  films  as  Michael 
Cimino's  Year  of  the  Dragon  (1985),  Abel  Ferraro's  China 
Girl  (1987),  and  Sylvester  Stallone's  Rambo  II  (1985)  as 
symptomatic  of  a  long  and  perverse  tradition  of  portraying 
the  Asian  male  as  a  bloodthirsty,  money-grubbing,  sub- 
human megalomaniac,  and  the  Asian  woman  as  an  exotic, 
long-tressed  sex  object.  In  effect,  the  Asian,  whether  born 
here  or  overseas,  becomes  an  Other  to  such  a  degree  that 
ethical  standards  of  human  behavior  are  presumed  not 
to  apply. 

Historically  there  are  clear  links  between  anti-Asian 
laws  of  the  nineteenth  century,  with  their  portrayal  of 
Asian  immigrants  as  the  "Yellow  Peril,"  the  disastrous 
Vietnam  War  (a  confrontation  made  inevitable  by  Western 
colonial  values),  and  the  significant  upsurge  in  violence 
directed  against  Asians,  as  noted  by  the  U.S.  Commission 
on  Civil  Rights  in  its  1986  report.  In  myriad  ways,  the  Asian 
becomes  the  modern  barbarian  hammering  at  the  mas- 
sive gates  of  the  Imperial  West.  Contextually  this  anti- 
Asian  bias  should  be  viewed  as  another  manifestation  of 
American  society's  xenophobic  streak,  which  has  at  vari- 
ous times  targeted  the  Jew  the  Irish,  and  the  southern 
European  for  vilification. 

Within  this  context,  the  dominant  idea  of  Chinatown 
acts  as  a  convenient  repository  of  all  those  images  meant 
to  pigeonhole  the  Chinese  and,  by  extension  (since  Asians 
are  all  supposed  to  look  alike),  other  Asians  as  well.  Just  as 
pernicious  are  portrayals  of  Asian-Americans  as  a  model 
minority,  as  society's  well-behaved  darlings  with  no  sig- 
nificant problems.  In  fact,  behind  the  bright  neon  facades 
of  Chinatown,  and  the  tourist  hustle  and  bustle,  a  sub- 
culture of  sweatshop  labor  and  ill-paying  restaurant  work 
has  long  existed. 

As  for  the  rah-rah  image  of  Asian-American  students  as 
whiz  kids,  most  such  students  must,  in  fact,  contend  with 


restrictive  quotas  at  many  of  the  country's  top  univer- 
sities. These  unsettling  facts  demonstrate  easily  that  posi- 
tive minority  myths  are  just  as  damning  and  false  as  nega- 
tive ones. 

Unquestionably,  a  history  of  marginalization  applied  to 
Chinatown  has  resulted  in  a  counterfeit  notion  that  serves 
the  power  structure  well.  For  if  these  bankrupt  images  of  a 
real-life  community  are  accepted  wholesale,  then  what 
need  is  there  for  those  who  determine  policy  and  who 
shape  popular  imagery  to  actually  look  behind  the  bright 
lights  and  question  their  own  deep-rooted  assumptions? 

Scrutable  Images:  Chinatown  Demystified  deals  with 
lesser-known  images  that  originate  from  within  the  com- 
munity. The  films  and  videotapes  included — both  docu- 
mentary and  feature — are  concerned  with  questions  of 
historicity,  self-definition,  and  empowerment.  The  usual 
process,  i.e.,  from  the  outside  looking  in,  is  reversed  and  a 
very  different  Chinatown  emerges.  The  difference  springs 
from  a  demythification — deconstruction,  if  you  will — of  a 
popular  mindset.  Seen  from  within,  Chinatown  divests 
itself  of  quotation  marks  and  begins  to  breathe,  to  assume 
a  complexity  and  a  human  depth  that  cannot  be  measured 


is 


The  Only  Language  She  Knows,  1983  Steven  Okazaki 


*» 


Production  shot  from  Eight-Pound  Livelihood,  1984.  Yuet-fung  Ho.  Photograph  by  Paul  Calhoun. 


either  by  simple  geographic  boundaries  or  by  simple 
3  equations.  Like  any  other  community,  Chinatown  is  as 

much  a  process  as  it  is  a  historical  reality. 

Of  the  nineteen  films  and  videotapes  in  this  exhibition, 
sixteen  are  documentaries.  There's  a  reason  for  this.  Clyde 
Taylor,  writing  about  black  documentarians  like  St.  Clair 
Bourne,  notes  that  they  "began  working  to  recode  the 
nonfictional  representation  of  black  experience,"  where 
"blacks  are  introduced  as  speakers-for-themselves."1 
Needless  to  say,  the  same  need  for  "recoding"  is  felt  with- 
in the  Asian-American  community.  To  reclaim  its  cultural 
territory,  to  speak  in  its  own  voice — these  continue  to  be 
deeply  felt  imperatives. 

As  Bill  Gee,  writing  about  the  11th  Asian-American 
International  Film  Festival,  points  out,  the  emphasis  dur- 
ing the  1960s  on  ethnic  studies  and  the  parallel  emer- 
gence of  independent  Asian-American  media  explain  the 
preeminence  of  the  documentary  in  Asian- American  film: 
it  was,  and  continues  to  be,  an  instrument  essential  in 
"getting  the  story  finally  told  right.  "2  Since  the  1960s  there 
has  been  a  heightened  awareness  that  the  Asian-Amer- 
ican community  could  and  should  use  the  media  not  just 
to  counteract  stereotypical  pontifications,  but  to  give  ex- 
pression to  very  specific  concerns — aesthetic,  political, 
social.  And  in  Asian-American  cinema  the  documentary 
has  become  the  logical  antithesis  to  the  straitjacket  of  the 
mainstream  view  of  Asian-American  culture  and  history. 
■a  In  the  first  program,   "History  Revisited,  C-Town  Re- 

^^  vealed,"  Eddie  Wong's  Pieces  of  a  Dream  (1974)  and  Wong 
Sinsaang  (1971),  provide,  respectively,  a  straightforward 
historical  overview  of  Asian  immigration  to  California,  par- 


ticularly to  the  Sacramento  River  Delta,  and  a  look  at  an 
individual  immigrant's  struggle  to  keep  Los  Angeles'  de- 
humanizing forces  at  bay  through  tai  chi  and  poetry.  Lam- 
bert Yam's  impressionistic  short  I  Am  the  Master  of  My 
Boat  (1976) — a  vivid  document  of  the  filmmaker's  feelings 
during  his  early  days  in  America — and  Wayne  Wang's 
offbeat  classic  Chan  Is  Missing  (1981)  offer  two  unorthodox 
views  of  San  Francisco's  Chinatown.  Wang's  film  is  a  hu- 
morous but  undeniably  real  and  intimate  portrayal  of 
Chinatown,  set  within  the  frame  of  a  detective  story.  This 
1981  independent  feature  was  the  first  Asian-American 
feature  to  attain  critical  and  commercial  success. 

"Mistakes  of  Prejudice"  examines  the  tragic  conse- 
quences of  racism  both  on  an  individual  and  collective 
basis.  In  Family  Gathering  (1988)  Lise  Yasui,  a  third-gener- 
ation Japanese-American,  or  Sansei,  and  Ann  Tegneil 
have  fashioned  a  personal  document  out  of  Yasui's  grand- 
father's unjust  incarceration  during  World  War  II  simply 
because  he  was  Japanese.  This  piece  examines  the  subse- 
quent feelings  of  shame  and  betrayal  that  he  was  never 
able  to  nd  himself  of.  Msei  Soldier:  Standard  Bearer  for  an 
Exiled  People  (1984),  Lorn  Ding's  eloquent,  often  lyrical 
work,  uses  archival  footage  to  closely  examine  these  same 
feelings,  as  reflected  in  the  story  of  Nisei  soldiers  fighting 
bravely  for  this  country,  even  as  their  friends  and  family 
were  behind  barbed  wire  in  such  places  as  Tule  Lake  and 
Manzanar,  California.  And  Felicia  Lowe's  Carved  in  Silence 
(1987)  is  a  quietly  effective  historical  docu-drama  about 
the  detention  of  Chinese  immigrants  (again,  purely  on  the 
basis  of  race)  in  San  Francisco  Bay's  Angel  Island  during 
the  years  of  the  Chinese  Exclusion  Act,  1882-1943. 


The  Fall  of  the  I  Hotel,  1983.  Curtis  Choy. 

As  the  title  indicates,  the  focus  of  "Mothers,  Sons,  and 
Daughters"  is  the  relationship  between  the  mother  (for- 
eign-born) and  her  children  (American-born).  Sewing 
Woman  (1983)  is  filmmaker  Arthur  Dong's  paean  to  his 
China-born  mother,  a  former  child-bride  and  garment  fac- 
tory worker.  In  The  Only  Language  She  Knows  (1983), 
Steven  Okazaki  looks  at  two  sets  of  relationships:  be- 
tween Chinese-American  playwright  Genny  Lim  and  her 
mother,  and  between  Lim  and  her  daughter.  Mother- 
daughter  dynamics  are  also  at  the  heart  of  Wayne  Wang's 
Dim  Sum  (1984),  with  the  traditionally  minded  mother 
anxious  for  her  daughter  to  marry  before  she,  the  mother, 
passes  away.  Because  their  characters  have  to  straddle 
two  cultures,  these  films  also  comment  on  the  complex 
feelings  American-bom  Asians  have  toward  Asia. 

"A  Culture  Is  Harder  to  Cross  than  an  Ocean"  consists 
of  two  works  that  deal  further  with  being  caught  up  simul- 
taneously in  different  cultural  contexts.  Jason  Hwang's 
reflective  documentary,  Afterbirth  (1982),  concerns  itself 
with  the  question  of  Asian-American  identity  as  inter- 
preted by  several  individuals.  And  Stephen  Ning  and 
Yuet-fung  Ho's  short  feature  Freckled  Rice  (1983)  is  a  wry, 
sensitively  understated  and  loosely  autobiographical  ac- 
count of  growing  up  in  Boston's  Chinatown. 

Other  groups  encompassed  by  the  Chinatown  com- 
munity, such  as  the  Indochinese  refugees  and  the  Fil- 
ipinos, are  the  subject  of  "Where  Do  We  Go  From  Here?." 
Chnstine  Choy's  Bittersweet  Survival  (1981)  probes  the 


resettlement  problems  of  the  former,  viewed  against  the 
historical  tradition  of  strong  anti- Asian  bias.  Geoffrey 
Dunn  and  Mark  Schwartz's  Dollar  a  Day,  Ten  Cents  a  Dance 
(1984)  is  a  charming  tribute  to  the  hardiness  and  resilient 
spirit  of  now-retired  Filipino  farm  laborers  on  the  West 
Coast.  Many  of  them  used  to  live  in  San  Francisco's  fa- 
mous International  Hotel,  since  demolished  by  a  devel- 
oper. The  demolition,  and  the  Asian  community's  struggle 
against  it,  are  what  Curtis  Choy  zeroes  in  on  in  The  Fall  of 
the  I  Hotel  (1983),  in  a  style  at  once  poetic  and  journalistic. 
"The  Roles  Expand" — a  program  of  four  video  works — 
examines  traditional  occupations  and  not  so  traditional 
ones.  Spencer  Nakasako's  Monterey's  Boat  People  (1982)  is 
a  documentary  on  the  problems  faced  by  Vietnamese 
fishermen  in  Monterey,  California,  which  echoes  similar 
sentiments  and  problems,  faced  by  Japanese  fishermen  in 
the  past.  In  Eight-Pound  Livelihood  (1984),  Yuet-fung  Ho 
provides  a  lively  retelling  of  the  experiences  of  six  laundry 
workers,  using  snapshots  and  other  personal  memo- 
rabilia. With  Loni  Ding's  On  New  Ground  (1982)  and  Tom 
Tarn's  Bowery  Movement  (1988),  we  see  a  shift  to  non- 
traditional  careers.  Ding's  work  profiles  Asian- American 
women  in  such  jobs  as  coxswain,  welder,  and  investment 
broker,  while  Tarn's  piece  focuses  on  Chinese-American 
artists  based  in  or  near  New  York's  Chinatown.  This  diver- 
sity of  aesthetic  and  social  concerns  offers  a  clear  indica- 
tion of  just  how  blessedly  wide  and  unesoteric  is  the  real- 
life  spectrum  of  Chinatown  life. 

Luis  H.  Francia 
Guest  Curator 

1.  Clyde  Taylor,  "St.  Clan  Bourne,"  in  TTie  New  American  Filmmakers 
Series  41,  program  note,  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York. 
1988,  unpaginated. 

2.  Bill  Gee,  "Feats  of  Defying  Gravity:  Asian-Amencan  Filmmaking  in 
Our  Time,"  in  11th  Asian-American  International  Film  Festival, 
exhibition  brochure,  Asian  Cine- Vision,  New  York,  1988,  p.  12. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Chin,  Daryl.  "Problematics  of  Asian-American  Filmmaking."  In  9th 
Asian-American  International  Film  Festival  (exhibition  brochure)  New 
York:  Asian  Cine- Vision,  1986,  pp.  8-16. 

"Writing  an  Unexpurgated  History  of  Asian-American 

Film."  CineVue,  3  (June  1988),  pp.  5-6. 

Chinn,  Karen   "A  Test  of  Objectivity"  CineVue,  1  (November  1986), 
pp.  1,  6. 

Francia,  Luis  H,  ed.  "Asian  and  Asian-Amencan  Films   New  Perspec- 
tives." Bridge,  9,  nos.  3-4  (1984). 

"Made  in  America."  Film  Comment.  9  (October  1983). 

pp.  56-58. 

Howe,  Joyce.  "Images  That  Speak  Volumes — At  Last,  New  Asian  Film 
Roles."  CineVue,  3  (June  1988),  p.  4 

"Insights  into  Craft:  Interview  with  Wayne  Wang  and  Arthur  Dong." 
CineVue,  2  (September  1987),  pp.  4-5. 

Mark,  Diane   "Introduction  and  Screen  Notes  to  Chan  Is  Missing  " 
Hawaii  Writers  Quarterly,  23  (Summer  1984),  pp  1-9 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8.00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  <    1988  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    45 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Al  Wong 


November  22-December  22,  1988 


Each  Time  I  See  You,  I  Feel  It  Could  Be  the  Last 
Time,  1988.  Multimedia  installation.  On  view 
continuously. 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  November  29,  at  6:30. 
Daryl  Chin  and  Al  Wong  will  be  present. 


1 


Works  in  the  Installation 

Dimensions  are  overall  and  are  given  in  inches,  followed  by 
centimeters;  height  precedes  width  precedes  depth.  All  works  are 
in  the  collection  of  the  artist. 


Holding  My  Own,  1986 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  netting,  with  lighting,  48  X  72  (121.9 


182.9) 


Laura,  1986 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  netting,  with  cloth,  nylon,  plastic,  and 

lighting,  48  x  72  (121.9  x  182.9);  Type  C  print,  11  x  14  (27.9  x  35.6) 

Each  Time  I  See  You,  I  Feel  It  Could  Be  the  Last  Time,  1987 
Acrylic  on  fiberglass  netting,  with  TV  set,  table,  tablecloth, 
aluminum  cane,  and  lighting,  60  x  120  X  24  (152.4  X  304.8  x  61); 
videotape  playback  deck,  W  videotape,  color,  sound,  90  mmutes 

Line  Up,  1987 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  netting,  with  plastic,  nylon,  cloth,  envelope,  3 

light  bulbs,  and  photocopies  of  photographs,  252  X  120 

(640.1x304.8) 

On/Off,  1987 

Acrylic,  enamel,  spray  paint,  and  marker  on  fiberglass  netting, 

with  lightbulb  and  flasher,  48  x  72  (121.9  x  182.9) 

Suzuki  Roshi,  1987 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  netting,  with  wood  and  lighting,  48  x  72 

(121.9  x  182.9);  black-and-white  photograph,  8  x  10  (20.3  x  25.4) 

Grandmothers,  1988 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  nettmg,  with  marquisette,  plastic,  nylon,  and 

wood,  5  photocopies  of  photographs,  and  lighting,  84  x  96 

(213.4x243.8) 

Last  Time,  1988 

Lipstick  on  glass,  and  ink  on  vinyl,  with  wood,  cloth,  photocopies  of 

photographs,  lightbulb,  flasher,  and  12  fishing  hooks,  16  x46 

(40.6x116.8) 

Let  Ya  See  My  Fan,  1988 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  netting,  with  lightbulb,  flasher,  thread,  plastic, 

photocopy  of  photograph,  and  wood,  72  x  144  (182.9  x  365.8) 

Rembrandt's  Cloth  Makers,  1988 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  netting  and  canvas,  and  pencil  and  ink  on 

plastic,  with  wood,  nylon,  and  lighting,  108  x  84  (274.3  X  213.4) 

Shadow  Tree,  1988 

Acrylic  on  fiberglass  nettmg,  with  wood  and  lighting,  72  x  144  x  72 

(182.9x365.8x182.9) 


Line  Up,  from  Each  Time  I  See  You,  I  Feel  It  Could  Be  the  Last  Time 


Al  Wong  began  to  film  his  father  in  1966,  the  same  year  he 
completed  his  first  publicly  screened  films.  This  "home- 
movie"  project,  spanning  two  decades,  resulted  in  five 
hours  of  film,  six  hours  of  videotape,  and  a  compilation  of 
restored  family  photographs  dating  from  the  turn  of  the 
century.  From  this  wealth  of  material,  Wong  developed 
Each  Time  I  See  You,  I  Feel  It  Could  Be  the  Last  Time,  a 
piece  which  concretizes  issues  of  memory,  immigration 
and  assimilation,  and  cultural  difference. 

Each  Time  I  See  You  centers  on  the  life  of  the  artist's 
father,  Willie  Wong,  who  was  born  in  China  in  1895.  Immi- 
grating to  the  United  States  in  1917,  Willie  Wong  led  an 
itinerant  life,  moving  from  San  Francisco  to  Minnesota  to 
Cuba  to  South  America,  finally  returning  to  San  Francisco 
in  1922.  Until  he  died  in  1986,  he  remained  in  the  same 
Chinatown  apartment,  and  he  worked  in  the  same  restau- 
rant for  over  thirty-eight  years.  Although  he  officially  re- 
tired in  1962,  Willie  Wong  continued  working  part-time 
until  1966.  At  that  point,  Al  Wong  began  shooting  the 
"home  movies."  In  1986,  Al  Wong  traveled  to  China  to  visit 
and  record  his  relatives  and  the  places  his  father  had  left  in 
1917.  Upon  his  return  to  San  Francisco,  Wong  found  his 
father  in  failing  health. 

As  in  the  finest  expressions  of  contemporary  aesthetics, 
Al  Wong  finds  formal  correlatives  for  his  thematic  con- 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  The  Bohen  Foundation,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for 
the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  John  D.  and  Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


cems.  Each  TimelSee  You,  the  central  piece  in  the  installa- 
tion, consists  of  a  small  table  holding  a  TV  monitor.  A  cane 
rests  against  the  table  and  a  large  piece  of  transparent 
fiberglass  netting  hangs  in  front  of  it.  A  silhouette  image 
of  Willie  Wong  is  painted  on  the  netting  so  that  his  arm 
appears  to  be  resting  on  the  monitor,  his  body  resting  on 
the  cane.  The  videotape,  which  combines  film,  video,  and 
photographs,  begins  with  Willie  Wong  posing  for  the  sil- 
houette. Wong  creates  a  play  of  spatial  continuity  between 
interior  and  exterior.  The  dichotomies  articulated  in  the 
first  few  seconds  of  the  videotape  are  amplified  in  the  ten 
other  netting  pieces  situated  throughout  the  gallery. 
There  is  a  continual  play  of  presence  and  absence,  of 
positive  and  negative  space,  presenting  antinomies  of  re- 
ality and  memory,  of  cultural  influence  and  ethnic  specif- 
icity, and  of  Eastern  and  Western  cultures.  Wong's  jux- 
taposition of  family  imagery  with  cultural  signs 
contextualizes  the  personal  within  the  cultural. 

During  the  past  decade,  some  of  the  most  powerful 
media  installations,  such  as  Juan  Downey's  Video  Trans 
Americas  (1976)  and  Beryl  Korot's  Dachau  1974  (1975),  have 
combined  the  personal  and  the  cultural.  Wong  begins 
with  the  most  intensely  personal  material,  but  consis- 
tently edits,  arranges,  and  accentuates  it  so  that  a  formal 
tension  results.  By  setting  up  the  play  between  positive 
and  negative,  Wong  is  creating  a  visual  metaphor  for  the 
lives  hidden  within  the  confines  of  ghetto  neighborhoods. 
The  small  two-room  apartment  which  became  the  world 
of  Willie  Wong  after  his  period  of  extensive  world  travel 
represents  the  constriction  of  lives  forced  to  exist  within 
specific  social  definitions.  In  Each  Time  I  See  You,  I  Feel  It 
Could  Be  the  Last  Time,  Al  Wong  presents  the  feelings  of 
estrangement  and  assimilation  which  characterize  the 
condition  of  being  Asian- American.  The  reproductions  of 
Western  art  become  the  representations  of  the  cultural 
aspirations  that  define  the  consciousness  of  those  within 
the  American  system.  The  videotape,  with  its  highly  emo- 
tional imagery  of  the  Asian-American  (and,  by  familial 
extension,  Asian)  experience,  represents  the  social,  eco- 
nomic, and  political  framework  from  which  the  specific 
aesthetic  of  the  installation  was  developed. 

If  the  modernist  agenda  stipulated  the  recognition  of  a 
consciousness  "to  state  the  terms  of  its  own  autonomy"1 
then  part  of  the  Postmodern  agenda  might  be  the  recogni- 
tion of  the  consciousness  of  "the  Other."  In  the  context  of 
Postmodernism,  Al  Wong's  installation  raises  many  ques- 
tions. How  valid  is  the  characterization  of  the  Other?  Can 
the  recognition  of  difference  be  accomplished  without 
condescension?  If,  for  the  West,  the  recognition  of  dif- 
ference is  "a  crisis  of  cultural  authority,  specifically  of  the 
authority  vested  in  Western  European  culture  and  its  in- 
stitutions,"2 then  must  that  recognition  necessarily  in- 
volve the  negation  of  the  values  of  cultural  differences? 
These  questions  are  implied  in  the  formal  beauty  of  Each 
Time  I  See  You,  I  Feel  It  Could  Be  the  Last  Time  and  its 
assertion  of  the  thematic  concerns  of  this  singular  Asian- 
American  artist. 

Daryl  Chin 

Guest  Curator 


1.  Rosalind  Krauss,  "Dark  Glasses  and  Bifocals:  A  Book  Review," 
Artforum,  12  (May  1974),  p.  60. 

2.  Craig  Owens,  "Feminists  and  Postmodernism,"  in  Hal  Foster,  ed.,  The 
AnO-Aesthetic.  Essays  on  Postmodern  Culture  (Port  Townsend, 
Washington:  Bay  Press,  1983),  p.  57. 

Biography 

Al  Wong  was  bom  in  San  Francisco  in  1939.  He  studied  at  the  San 
Francisco  Art  Institute  (M.EA.,  1971),  Wong  was  a  lecturer  on  film  and 
video  at  Califorrua  State  University,  Sacramento  (1975-77),  and  has  been 
an  associate  professor  of  fine  arts  at  the  San  Francisco  Art  Institute  since 
1975.  He  has  received  grants  and  fellowships  from  the  American  Film 
Institute  (1975),  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  (1983),  and  the  John 
Simon  Guggenheim  Memonal  Foundation  (1986).  Wong  is  currently  on  the 
Artists  Advisory  Board  of  the  New  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art,  New 
York.  He  lives  and  works  in  San  Francisco. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

F  &  F  Schule  fur  Expenmentelle  Gestaltung,  Zunch,  1975;  San  Francisco 
Museum  of  Modem  Art,  1977;  Personal  Cinema  Senes,  Millennium,  New 
York,  1978;  Gallery  Tamura,  Tokyo,  1980;  Cineprobe,  The  Museum  of 
Modem  Art,  New  York,  1980;  Philadelphia  College  of  Art,  1981;  Atholl 
McBean  Gallery,  San  Francisco,  1982;  Collective  for  Living  Cinema,  New 
York,  1982,  1984 ;  The  New  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art,  New  York,  1984 ; 
New  Langton  Arts,  San  Francisco,  1984,  1985. 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Pacific  Film  Archive,  University  Art  Museum,  University  of  California. 
Berkeley,  1974,  1976;  Fugitive  Cinema,  Amsterdam,  1975;  Eye  Music,  San 
Francisco,  1976;  The  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art,  New  York,  1977;  La 
Pagode,  Pans,  1977;  Asian-Amencan  Film  Festival,  New  York,  1978,  1979, 
1980;  Anthology  Film  Archives,  New  York,  "The  West  Coast  Survey,"  1981, 
Kunstmuseum,  Bern,  Switzerland,  "Alles  und  Noch  Viel  Mehr,"  1985; 
Millennium,  New  York,  "20th  Anniversary  Retrospective,"  1986;  Emily 
Davis  Gallery,  University  of  Akron,  Ohio,  "Film  Installations,"  1987. 

Selected  Installations 

All  works  containing  film  are  16mm,  silent,  and  black  and  white,  unless 
otherwise  noted. 

Comer  Piece,  1978.  2  projectors;  2  12-minute  films. 

Screen,  Projector,  &  Film,  1978.  Projector;  screen;  14-minute  film,  color. 

Shadow  and  Chair,  1980.  Oil  on  metal  chair;  incense;  11-minute  film. 

Sunlight,  1980.  Sunlight,  incense,  magnets,  funnel,  mirrors. 

Moon  Stand,  1981.  Microphone;  speaker;  paper;  15-minute  film. 

Puddle,  1982.  Tempera;  water;  plastic;  18-minute  film,  color 

Moon  Light,  1984.  Mirror;  water;  25-minute  film,  color. 

Shadow  Fence,  1984.  Acrylic  on  chain-link  fence. 

Light/Shadow  Dome,  1988.  Acrylic  on  fiberglass. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Burnham,  Linda  Frye.  "Al  Wong."  High  Performance,  5  (Spnng-Summer 

1982),  p.  169. 
Cowan,  Bob.  "Notes  from  the  New  Cinema."  Take  One,  6  (July  1978), 

p.  34. 
Film  Installations  (exhibition  catalogue).  Essay  by  Michael  Jones.  Akron. 

Ohio:  Emily  Davis  Gallery,  University  of  Akron,  1987,  pp.  4,  52-65. 
Haller,  Robert.  "  Al  Wong,  Victor  Grauer,  and  Frank  Gillette."  Field  of 

Vision,  no.  4  (Fall  1978),  p.  25. 
Savage-Lee,  Caroline   "The  Reality  of  Projection."  Artweek,  11  (August 

16,  1980),  p.  16. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  '    1988  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    46 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Spencer  Williams 


December  27,  1988- January  10,  1989 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  January  3,  at  6:30 
Adrienne  Lanier  Seward  will  be  present. 


It's  not  exactly  clear  what  caused  Spencer  Williams  (1893- 
1969)  to  use  Afro-American  folk  religious  traditions  to 
structure  his  film  aesthetic.  What  is  clear,  however,  is  that 
early  in  his  career,  the  Louisiana  native,  who  later 
achieved  fame  as  Andy  on  the  popular  TV  show  "Amos  'n' 
Andy, "  demonstrated  a  keen  sensibility  toward  black  folk 
idioms.  By  1928,  he  had  negotiated  this  skill  into  a  position 
with  Paramount  Studios ;  and  before  he  left  a  year  later,  he 
had  worked  as  dialogue  coach,  actor,  continuity  writer, 
and  "script  doctor,"  in  collaboration  with  the  white, 
Southern  local-color  writer  Octavus  Roy  Cohen,  on  several 
all-black  cast  comedy  shorts. 

Like  other  black  film  pioneers,  Williams  honed  his  skills 
working  on  "race"  movies  and  conventional  Saturday 
afternoon  staples — Westerns,  melodramas,  and  musical 
variety  shows.  Before  the  release  of  The  Blood  of  Jesus  (1941), 
he  had  drifted  from  studio  to  studio — the  major  studios 
and  independent  companies  producing  for  the  black  mar- 
ket. At  the  first  opportunity  to  exercise  the  control  of  an 
auteur,  he  rejected  "racial  uplift"  stories  and  popular  B- 
movie  formulas  for  a  different  source  of  inspiration. 

Black  and  Southern,  Williams  demonstrated  an  intimate 
familiarity  with  the  folk  cultural  elements  he  wove  into  his 
best  films.  In  The  Blood  of  Jesus  these  elements  combine 
in  ways  that  parallel  the  traditional  Afro-American  folk 
drama  found  in  black  churches  across  the  United  States. 
This  tradition,  though  largely  undocumented,  runs  deep 
and  richly  employs  symbols  and  imagery  that  have  histor- 
ically distinguished  Afro-American  folk  religious  expres- 
sion. The  folk  drama  structure  reveals  a  strong  link  with 
the  black  folk  sermon,  lending  authority  to  a  description  of 
the  folk  drama  as  a  "dramatized  sermon."1  Appropriating 
this  form,  with  its  obvious  cinematic  possibilities, 
Williams  provided  a  deeply  rooted  cultural  alternative 
to  Hollywood  formulas  for  shaping  and  defining  a  black 
film  aesthetic. 

Both  The  Blood  of  Jesus  and  Go  Down  Death  (1944) 
share  opening  formulaic  elements  with  the  folk  sermon 
and  the  folk  drama:  an  acknowledgment  of  the  sacred 
source  of  the  message,  reaffirmation  of  the  minister's  role 
as  intermediary,  and  the  direct  announcement  of  theme.2 
Using  a  sound  track  of  traditional  songs,  crosscuts  of 
pulpits  and  imposing  church  exteriors,  and  voice-over  nar- 
ration, Williams  cements  the  cross-generic  relationship 
between  two  traditional  forms  of  Afro-American  ritual 


The  Blood  of  Jesus,  1941.  Photograph  courtesy  Southwest  Film/Video 
Archives,  Dallas.  Texas. 


expression  through  the  medium  of  film.  The  all-black  au- 
diences for  whom  these  films  were  made  doubtless  found 
these  elements  familiar,  as  they  did  another  element,  that 
of  the  processional. 

The  processional  is  a  powerful  and  recurring  perfor- 
mance element  in  the  folk  drama  and  in  the  regular  church 
service.  In  Heaven  Bound,  a  traditional  folk  drama  per- 
formed annually  in  Atlanta,  Georgia,  for  more  than  half  a 
century,  the  procession  of  a  celestial  choir  into  the  main 
playing  area  signals  the  beginning  of  the  dramatic  action 
and  immediately  distinguishes  the  saved  from  the 
damned.  This  tradition,  however,  does  not  function  solely 
in  a  sacred  or  spiritual  context.  It  carries  over  into  broader 
social  and  political  contexts  as  a  characteristic  feature  of 
black  demonstrations  and  protests.  The  civil  rights 
marches  led  by  Dr.  Martin  Luther  King,  Jr.,  in  the  1960s 
demonstrate  the  continuity  and  function  of  the  tradition  in 
its  fusion  of  sacred  and  secular  elements.  In  The  Blood  of 
Jesus,  Williams  uses  both  spiritual  and  social  images, 
through  opening  visual  sequences,  songs  from  the  Spir- 
itual corpus,  and  a  narrated  prologue  to  evoke  a  mythical 
past  and  link  it  with  a  historical  and  immediate  present. 

Williams  adheres  to  themes  that  also  govern  folk  drama: 
unadorned  variations  of  good  versus  evil.  There  is  no  ar- 
tifice here ;  neither  irony  nor  moral  ambiguity  comes  into 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  The  Bohen  Foundation,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for 
the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  John  D.  and  Catherine  T  MacArthur  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


play  to  obscure  the  path  of  the  righteous.  The  city,  defined 
by  nightclubs  and  juke  joints,  symbolizes  corruption  and 
damnation.  But  these  environments  are  also  devices  the 
filmmaker  uses  to  showcase  black  talent  and  to  create 
transitions  and  a  change  of  pace. 

In  The  Blood  of  Jesus,  for  instance,  the  action  further 
establishes  dual  planes  for  the  heroine,  Martha.  Within 
the  larger  narrative  structure  of  the  folk  drama  she  is  the 
lost  prodigal;  within  the  city  sequences  she  is  also  the 
"fallen  woman"  popular  in  numerous  Hollywood  movies 
in  the  1930s.  Her  struggles  against  worldliness  culmi- 
nate at  the  crossroads,  a  powerful  symbol  in  Afro- Amer- 
ican folk  culture.  It  was  at  the  crossroads  that  blues  musi- 
cian Robert  Johnson  is  said  to  have  sold  his  soul  to  the 
devil;  and  it  is  at  the  crossroads  that  Martha's  soul  is  in 
jeopardy.  Williams  presents  the  juncture  of  two  roads,  one 
bound  for  heaven,  the  other  for  hell.  In  one  of  the  most 
powerful  and  surreal  moments  in  the  history  of  black  film- 
making, an  exhausted  Martha  collapses  at  the  base  of  the 
cross;  "the  blood  of  the  lamb"  literally  drips  into  her  face. 

Williams  was  never  able  to  duplicate  that  moment  or  the 
sense  of  moral  clarity  that  he  achieved  in  The  Blood  of 
Jesus.  He  comes  closest  in  Go  Down  Death,  a  visual  retell- 
ing of  a  James  Weldon  Johnson  poem.  Using  borrowed 
footage,  he  attempts  to  recapture  the  surrealistic  style  of 
the  earlier  film  through  concrete  visual  expressions  of 
death  and  hell.  The  effort,  however,  is  heavy  handed  and 
the  quality  of  the  additional  footage  is  low.  Though  both 
films  use  religious  themes  for  their  development,  it  is 
interesting  that  in  Go  Down  Death  folk  elements  are  mini- 
mized in  favor  of  a  more  urban,  middle-class  tradition.  The 
songs,  for  example,  rather  than  derive  from  the  Spiritual 
tradition,  are  usually  texts  found  in  standard  Methodist 
hymnals.  And  the  villain,  Jim,  is  as  much  a  victim  of  his 
own  evil  as  he  is  a  victim  of  the  class  to  which  he  belongs 
and  from  which  he  cannot  escape.  These  differences  be- 
tween two  films  that  use  the  same  dramatic  formulas 
suggest  that  Williams  was  attempting  to  widen  his  au- 
dience by  making  an  appeal  based  as  much  on  social  as 
moral  issues. 

Two  other  films  in  Williams'  later  association  with  Sack 
productions — Of  One  Blood  (1945)  and  Dirty  Gertie  from 
Harlem  USA  (1946) — suggest  an  on-going  flirtation  with 
themes  of  religious  faith.  In  Dirty  Gertie,  which  resembles 
a  loosely  adapted  version  of  Somerset  Maugham's  Rain, 
the  allusions  are  vaguely  mystical  and  psychological  rather 
than  tied  to  any  specific  tradition  in  Afro-American  funda- 
mentalism. The  appearance  of  a  conjure  woman,  "Hager" 
(Hagar),  played  by  Williams,  doesn't  fully  succeed  in  mak- 
ing the  cultural  connection  that  her  name  and  role  sug- 
gest. Of  One  Blood  uses  the  biblical  theme  of  the  Deluge  to 
introduce  the  story  of  brothers  separated  and  later  re- 
united. The  film  is  flawed  by  the  incredible  circumstances 
set  up  in  the  narrative,  and  the  moral  urgency  created  in 
the  first  scenes  dissipates  all  too  quickly.  In  Williams'  other 
films  of  the  1940s,  such  as  Juke  Joint  (1947)  and  The  Girl  in 
Room  20  (1946),  he  entirely  abandoned  the  successful 
formula  that  he  had  used  in  The  Blood  of  Jesus. 

Little  is  known  about  the  reception  of  these  films, 
though  Williams'   producer  called   The  Blood  of  Jesus 


"probably  the  most  successful  of  all  Negro  films  and  [said 
that  it]  lived  the  longest  .  .  .  and  possessed  that  certain 
chemistry  required  by  the  Negro  box  office."3  That 
"chemistry"  depended  on  appropriate  symbols,  images, 
and  themes  combining  to  create  an  engaging  rapport  be- 
tween the  film  and  its  audience,  particularly  for  those  in 
the  rural  communities  where  it  played  most  frequently. 

Historically,  the  label  "black  film"  has  been  used  to 
identify  a  wide  range  of  productions,  primarily  defined  by 
an  emphasis  on  cast  and  theme.  A  number  of  these  films 
have  countered  the  distorted  and  pejorative  portrayals 
conventionalized  by  Hollywood  by  emphasizing  "racial 
uplift"  themes  and  the  desire  to  present  more  "realistic" 
images  of  black  life.  But  in  the  process  of  combating  nega- 
tive stereotypes,  self-conscious  impulses  have  under- 
mined the  creative  representation  of  distinct  aspects  of 
black  culture,  which  in  themselves  include  elements  of 
social  and  political  consciousness.  A  "black  film,"  like 
black  music,  black  sermons,  and  raps,  can,  however,  be 
identified,  as  in  The  Blood  of  Jesus,  in  relation  to  dynamic 
and  distinct  cultural  processes.  Traditional  forms,  images, 
symbols,  and  performance  styles  can  inform  the  structure, 
content,  and  texture  of  the  works  of  a  new  generation  of 
filmmakers  seeking  a  cinematic  expression  of  an  Afro- 
American  worldview. 

Adrienne  Lanier  Seward 
Guest  Curator 


1.  William  H.  Wiggins,  "  'In  the  Rapture':  The  Black  Aesthetic  and  Folk 
Drama,"  Callaloo,  2  (February  1978),  p.  103. 

2.  Gerald  Davis,  /  Got  the  Word  in  Me  and  /  Can  Sing  It,  You  Know:  A 
Study  of  the  Performed  African  American  Sermon  (Philadelphia: 
University  of  Pennsylvania  Press,  1987). 

3.  Thomas  Cnpps,  Black  Film  as  Genre  (Bloomington,  Indiana:  Indiana 
University  Press,  1978),  p.  131. 


Selected  Filmography 

All  films  are  35mm,  black  and  white,  and  sound. 

The  Blood  of  Jesus,  1941.  50  minutes.  Producer,  Amergo  Films/Sack 

Amusement,  Inc. 
Go  Down  Death,  1944.  50  minutes.  Producer,  Harlemwood/Sack 

Amusement  Corporation. 
Of  One  Blood,  1945.  60  minutes.  Producer.  Sack  Attractions. 
Beale  Street  Mama,  1946.  67  minutes.  Producer,  Sack  Entertainment. 
Dirty  Gertie  from  Harlem  USA,  1946.  60  minutes.  Producer,  Alfred  Sack. 
The  Girl  in  Room  20,  1946.  63  minutes.  Producer,  United  Films. 
Juice  Joint,  1947.  67  minutes.  Producer,  Harlemwood/Sack  Attractions. 

Further  Reading 

Cnpps,  Thomas.  "The  Films  of  Spencer  Williams  "  Black  American 

Literature  Forum,  12  (Winter  1978),  pp.  128-34. 
Richards,  Deborah  Bowman.  "A  Bibliographic  Essay  on  Afro- American 

Folk  Drama."  Ohio  Folklore,  6  (1979-1981),  pp.  37-55. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-800 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  "'•  1988  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    47 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


>S  Media:  Counter-Representations 


January  15-February  5,  1989 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  January  24,  at  6:30. 

Gregg  Bordowitz,  Jean  Carlomusto, 

Amber  Hollibaugh,  and  Tom  Kalin  will  be  present. 


§ 


I 


Works  are  W  videotape,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Program  I 

Fighting  for  Our  Lives  (1987),  Ellen  Seidler  and  Patrick  DuNah,  28 

minutes. 
Testing  the  Limits  (1987),  The  Testing  the  Limits  Collective  (Gregg 

Bordowitz,  Jean  Carlomusto,  Sandra  Elgear,  Robin  Hutt,  Hilery 

Joy  Kipnis,  and  David  Meieran),  28  minutes. 

Program  II 

Snow  Job:  The  Media  Hysteria  of  AIDS  (1986),  Barbara  Hammer, 

8  minutes. 
AIDS  News:  A  Demonstration  (1988),  Robert  Huff,  W  videotape, 

6  minutes. 
Doctors,  Liars,  and  Women  (1988).  Jean  Carlomusto  and  Mana 

Maggenti,  23  minutes. 
Transformer /AIDS  (1988),  Paper  Tiger  Southwest  (Jane  Cottis, 

Margaret  Difani,  Bob  Kinney,  and  John  Walden),  30  minutes. 
Seize  Control  of  the  FDA  (1988),  Gregg  Bordowitz  and  Jean 

Carlomusto,  28  minutes. 
We're  Desperate,  Get  Used  to  It  (1988),  Robert  Huff.  V;"  videotape, 

3  minutes. 

Program  III 

The  Helms  Amendment  (1988),  Jean  Carlomusto,  8  minutes. 
7?iey  Are  Lost  to  Vision  Altogether  (1988),  Tom  Kalin,  10  minutes. 
The  ADS  Epidemic  (1987),  John  Greyson,  5  minutes. 
A.I.D.S.C.R.E.A.M.  (1988),  Jerry  Tartaglia,  16mm  film,  9  minutes. 
The  2nd  Epidemic  (1988),  Amber  HoLUbaugh,  27  minutes. 

Program  IV 

Ojos  que  no  ven  (Eyes  That  Fail  to  See)  (1987),  Jose  Gutierrez, 

Instituto  Familiar  de  la  Raza,  Inc. /Latino  AIDS  Project,  52 

minutes  (dubbed  in  English). 
Up  in  Arms  over  Needle  Exchange  (1988),  Jean  Carlomusto  and 

Hilery  Joy  Kipms,  28  minutes. 
Till  Death  Do  Us  Part  (1988),  Ginny  Dumn,  16mm  film,  16  minutes. 
Work  Your  Body  (1988),  Gregg  Bordowitz  and  Jean  Carlomusto, 

28  minutes. 

Program  V 

Danny  (1987),  Stashu  Kybartas,  20  minutes. 

An  Individual  Desires  Solution  (1986),  Larry  Brose,  Super-8  film, 

black  and  white,  16  minutes. 
Song  from  an  Angel  (1988),  David  Weissman,  16mm  film,  5  minutes. 
Chuck  Solomon:  Coming  of  Age  (1986),  Marc  Huestis  and  Wendy 

Dallas,  58  minutes. 
The  Inaugural  Display  of  the  NAMES  Project  Quilt  (1987),  David 

Thompson,  16  minutes. 


What  we  know  and  understand  about  AIDS  is  shaped,  to  a 
large  extent,  by  the  social  institutions  that  produce  and 
disseminate  knowledge  and  information  about  the  dis- 
ease. As  Paula  Treichler  has  pointed  out,  'AIDS  is  not 
merely  an  invented  label,  provided  to  us  by  science  ...  for 
a  clear-cut  disease  entity  caused  by  a  virus.  Rather,  the 
very  nature  of  AIDS  is  constructed  through  language  and 
m  particular  through  the  discourses  of  medicine  and  sci- 
ence." 1  It  is  precisely  because  cultural  biases  are  inscribed 
in  language  that  AIDS  activists  have  contested  the  termi- 
nology used  to  describe  the  disease  and  have  substituted 
the  phrase  "people  with  AIDS"  for  'AIDS  victims." 

Certainly  the  mass  media  are  implicated  in  this  process 
of  interpretation.  In  discussing  commercial  television's 
coverage  of  AIDS,  Timothy  Landers  has  observed  that 
"the  prevailing  representations  about  AIDS  indicate  that  it 
threatens  not  only  physical  bodies  and  institutional 
bodies,  in  particular  law  and  health-care  systems,  but  that 
it  is  attacking  the  immune  system  of  the  social  order 
itself."2  Mass-media  representations  of  AIDS  run  the 
gamut  from  sensational,  moralistic,  tabloid  headlines 
about  "the  gay  plague,"  to  humanistic  depictions  of  hero- 
ism in  the  face  of  death.  Central  to  all  of  this  reporting, 
however,  is  the  assumption  that  it  is  directed  to  "one 
audience — the  you  addressed  is  presumed  to  be  white, 
middle-class,  heterosexual,  and  healthy,  grouped  in  cozy, 
stable  families."3 

The  four  films  and  eighteen  videotapes  in  this  exhibition 
carry  no  such  baggage.  Rather,  they  function  as  "counter- 
images" — not  so  much  by  substituting  "positive"  images 
for  negative  ones  (although  some  do  that),  but  by  analyzing 
the  socio-cultural  mechanisms  that  produce  these  stereo- 
types. And  the  works  are  often  addressed  to  the  very 
audiences — gays,  drug  users,  minorities,  and  people  with 
AIDS — ignored  by  the  commercial  media. 

In  the  past  two  years,  the  production  of  videotapes  by 
artists  and  independent  producers  on  the  subject  of  AIDS 
has  mushroomed.  That  video  should  be  the  chosen  me- 
dium of  these  presentations  comes  as  no  surprise  since,  as 
Douglas  Crimp  put  it,  "much  of  the  dominant  discourse  on 
AIDS  has  been  conveyed  through  television,  and  this  dis- 
course has  generated  a  critical  counter-discourse  in  the 
same  medium."4  The  immediacy  and  affordability  of  video 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  The  Bohen  Foundation,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for 
the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  John  D.  and  Catherine  T  MacArthur  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


also  makes  it  possible  to  get  tapes  produced  quickly,  while 
the  availability  of  public  access  cable  channels  provides  an 
outlet  for  work  such  as  the  tapes  produced  by  Gregg 
Bordowitz  and  Jean  Carlomusto  for  Living  with  AIDS,  the 
Gay  Men's  Health  Crisis  weekly  cable  show. 

Since  the  way  AIDS  is  represented  in  language  and  the 
media  has  been  central  to  the  debate,  this  exhibition 
brings  together  works  with  different  objectives  and  dif- 
ferent production  strategies.  Some  tapes,  such  as  Fighting 
for  Our  Lives  and  Chuck  Solomon :  Coming  of  Age,  rely  on 
traditional  documentary  forms  to  present  points  of  view 
not  usually  accommodated  by  television;  others,  such  as 
Tbsting  the  Limits,  are  outgrowths  of  AIDS  activism,  just 
as  the  films  produced  by  the  Newsreel  collective  in  the 
1960s  and  1970s  served  the  civil  rights  and  student  protest 
movements.  Three  films  in  the  exhibition  have  aesthetic 
affinities  with  avant-garde  filmmaking;  and  a  number  of 
tapes  produced  by  artists  use  deconstructive  techniques. 

Program  I  presents  two  documentary  overviews  that 
show  how  two  cities — San  Francisco  and  New  York — 
have  responded  to  the  AIDS  crisis.  Fighting  for  Our  Lives 
(1987),  by  Ellen  Seidler  and  Patrick  DuNah,  chronicles  the 
epidemic's  effect  on  the  San  Francisco  gay  community  and 
how  AIDS  has  led  to  the  development  of  new  gay  social 
structures  and  support  networks  for  people  with  AIDS. 
The  tape  emphasizes  the  positive  steps  taken  in  AIDS 
education  and  treatment  that  have  made  San  Francisco 
the  "model  city"  for  AJDS  response.  Although  Fighting  for 
Our  Lives  touches  on  how  AIDS  has  politicized  the  San 
Francisco  gay  community,  its  primary  focus  is  on  how  the 
disease  has  affected  people  on  a  personal  level.  In  con- 
trast, Tbsting  the  Limits  (1987)  tackles  the  complex  web  of 
the  politics  surrounding  AIDS  in  New  York  by  document- 
ing activist  responses — from,  among  others,  the  Minority 
Task  Force  on  AJDS,  the  Institute  for  the  Protection  of  Gay 
and  Lesbian  Youth,  and  AJDS  Coalition  to  Unleash  Power 
(ACT  UP) — to  inadequacies  in  government  health  care, 
the  legal  system,  education,  and  scientific  research.  Each 
tape  has  a  different  emphasis  and  mode  of  address:  Fight- 
ing for  Our  Lives  uses  the  rhetorical  devices  traditionally 
associated  with  documentary  "objectivity,"  while  Tbsting 
the  Limits  assumes  a  more  exhortative  stance.  Together, 
the  two  works  serve  not  so  much  to  balance  each  other  as 
to  provide  a  sense  of  the  scope  of  the  issues  surrounding 
AIDS  and  its  representation. 

Simon  Watney  has  argued  that  "AIDS  is  not  only  a  medi- 
cal crisis  on  an  unparalleled  scale,  it  involves  a  crisis  of 
representation  itself,  a  crisis  over  the  entire  framing  of 
knowledge  about  the  human  body  and  its  capacities  for 
sexual  pleasure.'"1  The  tapes  in  Program  II  examine  the 
vanous  ways  in  which  the  institutions  of  the  media,  gov- 
ernment, and  medicine  have  functioned  to  shape  and  con- 
trol public  perception  of — and  hence,  public  response 
to— AIDS.  In  Snow  Job:  The  Media  Hysteria  of  AIDS  (1986), 
Barbara  Hammer  presents  a  catalogue  of  sensational 
headlines  and  audio  clips  from  news  reports  about  AIDS. 
By  removing  them  from  their  original  contexts  and  using  a 
layered  soundtrack,  Hammer  underscores  the  media's 
fundamental  homophobia. 


|0 


Doctors,  Liars,  and  Women,  1988.  Jean  Carlomusto  and  Maria  Maggenti. 


Robert  Huff  employs  another  deconstructive  technique 
in  AIDS  News:  A  Demonstration  (1988).  The  tape  begins 
with  a  report  by  a  local  New  York  TV  station  on  an  ACT  UP 
demonstration  protesting  the  paucity  of  federal  funding 
for  AIDS,  which  disrupted  morning  rush-hour  traffic  on 
Wall  Street.  Huff  plays  the  TV  segment  in  its  entirety, 
shows  it  in  rewind,  and  then  repeats  it — this  time  with 
editing  that  reveals  the  bias  underlying  the  report  and 
makes  connections  to  other  social  struggles.  As  the  re- 
porter talks  about  funding  levels  for  AIDS  research,  Huff 
inserts  footage  of  Star  Wars  simulations  and  substitutes 
sound  bites  from  more  sympathetic  bystanders  who  had 
not  appeared  in  the  original  TV  version. 

Another  aspect  of  media  manipulation  is  articulated  in 
Jean  Carlomusto  and  Maria  Maggenti's  Doctors,  Liars, 
and  Women  (1988),  a  tape  that  documents  a  demonstra- 
tion organized  by  a  group  of  female  activists  against  a 
controversial — and  highly  deceptive — article  on  AIDS 
that  appeared  in  Cosmopolitan  magazine.  The  article, 
which  was  based  on  questionable  research  by  a  doctor 
who  had  conducted  no  previous  AIDS  studies,  was  de- 
signed to  reassure  women  that  they  are  in  no  danger  of 
contracting  the  disease.  The  tape  includes  interviews 
with  the  women  as  they  discuss  their  motives  for  organiz- 
ing a  demonstration  outside  the  offices  of  the  magazine's 
publisher,  as  well  as  footage  of  an  interview  with  the 
doctor,  whose  arrogant  manner  and  unconvincing  argu- 
ments further  undermine  his  credibility 

Transformer /AIDS  (1988)  takes  a  speech  by  President 
Reagan  to  the  American  Foundation  for  AIDS  Research 
(AmFAR)  as  its  point  of  departure  for  a  critique  of  the 
administration's  policies  and  the  politics  of  language  as  it 
is  used  to  "construct  the  disease  and  help  make  it  intelligi- 
ble." 6  Produced  by  a  San  Diego-based  offshoot  of  the  Paper 
Tiger  Television  collective,  the  tape  uses  an  assortment  of 
lively  visual  juxtapositions.  For  instance,  the  govern- 
ment's AIDS  pamphlet  is  superimposed  over  footage  of 
the  TV  show  Leave  It  to  Beaver,  a  symbol  of  American 
middle-class  homogeneity,  while  the  voice-over  describes 
the  pamphlet  as  "speakfing]  to  everyone  as  if  we  were  an 
undifferentiated  community;  in  fact,  it  speaks  to  no  one." 

The  analysis  and  critique  evident  in  tapes  such  as 


J 


Transformer /AIDS  also  form  the  basis  for  activist  re- 
sponses. Nowhere  is  the  conjunction  of  theory  and  prac- 
tice, analysis  and  activism,  more  clearly  articulated  than  in 
Gregg  Bordowitz  and  Jean  Carlomusto's  Seize  Control  of 
the  FDA  (1988),  a  tape  that  not  only  documents  the  highly 
publicized  takeover  of  the  Food  and  Drug  Administration's 
headquarters  in  Rockville,  Maryland,  by  a  group  of  AIDS 
activists,  but  also  effectively  articulates  the  protesters' 
criticisms  of  the  FDA.  The  tape  intercuts  footage  of  the 
event  with  interviews  with  the  organizers,  seen  sitting  in 
front  of  video  monitors  that  show  footage  from  the  demon- 
stration, and  texts  that  explain,  point  by  point,  how  the 
FDA  has  failed  to  respond  to  the  AIDS  crisis — by,  among 
other  things,  delaying  or  blocking  the  release  of  new 
drugs  and  by  drug  trial  procedures  that  are  either  too  slow 
unethical,  or  discriminatory 

Program  II  concludes  with  Robert  Huff's  We're  Desper- 
ate, Get  Used  to  It  (1988),  which  uses  some  of  the  same 
shots  from  the  protest  footage  used  in  AIDS  News.  To 
emphasize  public  misperception  of  the  government's  in- 
action on  AIDS,  Huff  keeps  repeating  a  shot  of  an  older 
man  saying,  "I  think  the  government  is  doing  the  best  it 
can." 

One  of  the  most  disturbing  aspects  of  the  AIDS  epi- 
demic is  the  fear  and  ignorance  that  have  caused  wide- 
spread hostility  toward  people  with  AIDS,  from  the  hemo- 
philiac children  in  Florida  whose  house  was  burned  down 
after  it  became  known  that  they  had  contracted  AIDS,  to 
more  insidious  forms  of  bigotry,  racism,  and  homophobia. 
"AIDS  is  effectively  being  used,"  Simon  Watney  recently 
wrote,  "as  a  pretext  throughout  the  West  to  'justify'  calls 
for  increasing  legislation  and  regulation  of  those  who  are 
considered  to  be  socially  unacceptable."7  One  example  is 
the  Helms  Amendment,  proposed  days  after  a  gay  rights 
march  on  Washington  that  drew  over  500,000  demon- 
strators. Sponsored  by  the  ultra-conservative  senator  from 
North  Carolina,  the  law  would  have  banned  any  federal 
funding  for  AIDS  education  material  that  "promotes,  en- 
courages, or  condones  homosexual  behavior."  Jean  Carlo- 
musto's The  Helms  Amendment  (1988),  which  opens  Pro- 


Transformer/AIDS,  1988  Paper  Tiger  Southwest. 


They  Are  Lost  to  Vision  Altogether.  1988.  Tom  Kalin. 


gram  III,  looks  at  what  precipitated  Helms'  action — the 
"safer  sex"  comics  published  by  the  Gay  Men's  Health 
Crisis.  Although  the  comics  are  a  highly  effective  means  of 
promoting  safer  sex  practices,  Helms  singled  them  out,  as 
Tim  Sweeney  of  the  GMHC  makes  clear  in  the  tape,  in 
order  to  turn  the  bill  into  a  referendum  on  morality. 

Gay  sexuality  in  the  age  of  AIDS  is  the  subject  of  the 
next  three  tapes  and  film.  Tom  Kalin's  They  Are  Lost  to 
Vision  Altogether  (1988)  recontextualizes  heterosexually 
charged  songs  and  images  through  juxtaposition  with 
images  of  gay  sexuality.  Produced  as  a  lyrical  counterargu- 
ment to  the  Helms  Amendment,  the  tape  intercuts  audio 
clips  that  describe  some  of  the  more  heinous  actions  re- 
ported around  the  country  in  response  to  AIDS,  among 
them  the  TV  news  story  about  a  Houston  mayoral  candi- 
date whose  solution  to  AIDS  was  to  "shoot  the  queers." 

John  Greyson's  The  ADS  Epidemic  (1987)  is  a  humorous 
tape  that  announces  a  new  epidemic,  Acquired  Dread  of 
Sex.  The  catchy  song  enumerates  the  different  ways  one 
can  get  ADS — from  watching  TV  from  "stupid  jokes"  or 
"ignorant  folks" — and  concludes  by  proclaiming  "Stop  the 
ADS  campaign,  safe  sex  is  fun."  In  contrast,  Jerry  Tar- 
taglia's  A.I.D.S.C.R.E.A.M.  (1988)  is  a  film  of  mourning  and 
rage  about  how  reactionaries  are  using  AIDS  to  desex- 
ualize  gay  culture.  The  hand-processed,  tinted  film  ends 
with  the  sound  of  a  siren  as  a  voice-over  screams,  "I'm  a 
human  being,  not  a  viral  carrier." 

The  final  work  in  Program  III  is  Amber  Hollibaugh's  The 
2nd  Epidemic  (1988),  a  documentary  on  AIDS-related  dis- 
crimination that  looks  at  several  cases  handled  by  the 
AIDS  Discrimination  Unit  of  the  New  York  City  Human 
Rights  Commission.  The  tape  features  the  story  of  one 
community — Swansea,  Massachusetts — that  overcame 
its  fears  and  prejudices  by  giving  support  to  a  young  AIDS 
patient  and  his  family. 

Providing  explicit  information  about  AIDS  is  the  subject 
of  the  tapes  in  Program  IV  Ojos  que  no  ven  (Eyes  That  Fail 
to  See)  of  1987  is  structured  as  a  tele-novella,  a  soap-opera 
format  popular  in  Latin  countnes  and  Latino  communities. 
Highly  schematic  in  presentation  and  often  humorous, 


Ojos  que  no  ven  is  specifically  geared  for  Latino  audiences 
and  uses  the  complicated  plot  twists  characteristic  of  mel- 
odrama to  present  the  various  modes  of  AIDS  transmis- 
sion and  prevention.  Drawing  viewers  into  identification 
with  its  various  characters,  the  plot  centers  around  a  com- 
munity whose  members  are  exposed  to  AIDS  and  how 
they  cope  with  the  consequences. 

Up  in  Arms  over  Needle  Exchange  (1988),  by  Jean  Car- 
lomusto  and  Hilery  Joy  Kipnis,  examines  the  controversial 
proposal  to  give  free  needles  to  IV  drug  users  in  New  York 
City.  The  tape  combines  footage  shot  at  a  forum  at  which 
pro  and  con  arguments  were  heard  with  statistical  charts 
and  footage  of  a  demonstration.  The  result  is  a  convincing 
case  in  favor  of  the  proposal.  Till  Death  Do  Us  Part  (1988), 
by  Ginny  Durrin,  is  a  performance  piece  produced  with  a 
Washington,  D.C.,  youth  theater  group  that  explores  the 
impact  of  AIDS  on  black  teens.  The  film  uses  rap  music 
and  skits  to  caution  against  IV  drug  use. 

Work  Your  Body  (1988),  another  tape  produced  for  the 
Gay  Men's  Health  Crisis  by  Gregg  Bordowitz  and  Jean 
Carlomusto,  is  subtitled  Options  for  People  Who  Are  HIV 
Antibody  Positive.  Its  premise  is  that  AIDS  is  not  a  death 
sentence,  and  it  provides  straightforward  information  on 
health  care,  safe  sex,  drug  treatments,  and  support 
groups  designed  to  help  people  help  themselves. 

Most  of  the  tapes  and  films  in  the  first  four  programs 
consider  AIDS  in  social  and  political  contexts.  The  works 
in  Program  V  present  personal  responses  from  people  who 
have  lost  lovers,  friends,  and  relatives  to  AIDS  and  from 
those  who  have  contracted  the  disease.  In  Danny  (1987), 
Stashu  Kybartas  struggles  with  the  loss  of  a  friend  who 
died  in  1986.  The  tape  opens  with  a  text  crawl  which 
explains  that,  while  working  together  at  the  Pittsburgh 
AIDS  Task  Force,  they  had  begun  to  shoot  a  film  about 
Danny  after  he  was  diagnosed  as  having  AIDS.  But  this  is 
not  a  documentary  in  the  conventional  sense.  Using  pho- 
tographs of  Danny,  Kybartas  intercuts  sections  involving 
remembrance,  in  which  he  addresses  Danny  rhetorically; 
narrative  sections  describing  the  course  of  Danny's  ill- 
ness ;  and  Danny's  own  taped  conversations  about  his  life- 
style before  he  contracted  AIDS.  Through  juxtaposition  of 
image  and  text  (or  voice-over)  Kybartas  creates  para- 
doxes, as  when  a  description  of  Danny's  deteriorating 
condition  is  accompanied  by  a  shot  of  Danny  taking  off  his 
shirt — a  gesture  with  clear  sexual  connotations.  In  its 
refusal  to  apologize  for  Danny's  homosexuality  or  the  fact 
that  he  had  taken  IV  drugs,  the  tape  grants  this  AIDS 
"victim"  his  humanity. 

Like  Danny,  Larry  Brose's  An  Individual  Desires  Solution 
(1986)  is  a  work  of  mourning  in  which  the  filmmaker  at- 
tempts to  deal  with  the  loss  of  his  lover,  Kevin.  The  film 
opens  with  the  sound  of  piano  music;  a  text  crawl  up  the 
screen  contains  excerpts  from  conversations  in  which  the 
lover  shares  his  feelings  and  discusses  his  medical  op- 
tions. The  impact  of  his  words  doesn't  really  sink  in, 
though,  until  the  film  cuts  to  a  scene  of  Kevin  playing  the 
piano:  instead  of  piano  music,  we  hear  an  intentionally 
distorted  soundtrack  of  the  recorded  conversations. 

In  Song  from  an  Angel  (1988),  David  Weissman  docu- 
ments a  solo  performance  given  by  Rodney  Price,  a  found- 


ing member  of  San  Francisco's  Angels  of  Light  theatrical 
troupe,  two  weeks  before  his  death.  Seated  in  a  wheel- 
chair on  a  dark  stage,  Price  defies  the  image  of  the  AIDS 
"victim"  conventionalized  in  the  media  by  singing  and  tap 
dancing  to  a  light-hearted  song  about  his  illness. 

Another  San  Francisco  theatrical  figure,  gay  playwright 
Chuck  Solomon,  contradicts  the  image  of  the  person  with 
AIDS  as  debilitated  and  lonely  in  Marc  Huestis  and  Wendy 
Dallas'  documentary  Chuck  Solomon:  Coming  of  Age 
(1986).  Through  interviews  with  colleagues,  friends,  and 
Solomon  himself,  the  tape  becomes  an  affecting  portrait  of 
a  man  whose  life  represents,  in  microcosm,  the  story  of  the 
gay  rights  movement. 

A  sense  of  sharing  and  catharsis  is  captured  in  David 
Thompson's  The  Inaugural  Display  of  the  NAMES  Project 
Quilt  (1987).  To  commemorate  the  tens  of  thousands  who 
have  died  of  AIDS,  people  around  the  country  have  been 
creating  fabric  panels,  each  bearing  the  name  of  a  de- 
ceased loved  one.  Thompson's  tape  documents  the  mov- 
ing ceremony  held  in  Washington,  D.C.,  at  which  the  first 
1,920  panels  were  unfolded.  It  intercuts  shots  of  eight- 
person  groups  as  they  unfold  sections  of  the  quilt,  shots  of 
bystanders,  close-ups  of  the  quilt,  and  AIDS  activists  as 
they  read  the  roll  call  of  names. 

The  history  of  the  moving  image  is  filled  with  examples  of 
socially  committed  artists  engaged  with  the  issues  of 
their  time.  The  recent  film  and  video  productions  about 
AIDS  can  be  traced  to  a  number  of  motives :  the  desire  to 
correct  misrepresentations,  to  provide  accurate  informa- 
tion, to  share  personal  experiences,  and  to  call  for  ac- 
tivism. By  giving  voice  to  subjects  usually  excluded  from 
mainstream  media,  and  by  analyzing  and  challenging  dy- 
namic social  and  political  processes,  these  works  provide 
a  means  for  understanding  the  issues  surrounding  AIDS 
and  their  representation. 

Lucinda  Furlong 

Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


1.  Paula  A.  Treichler,  'An  Epidemic  of  Signification,"  October,  no.  43 
(Winter  1987),  p.  31. 

2.  Timothy  Landers,  "Bodies  and  Anti-Bodies:  A  Crisis  of  Representa- 
tion," The  Independent,  11  (January-February  1988),  p.  19. 

3.  Ibid.,  p.  18. 

4.  Douglas  Crimp,  "AIDS:  Cultural  Analysis/Cultural  Activism,"  October, 
no.  43  (Winter  1987),  p.  14. 

5.  Simon  Watney,  Policing  Desire:  Pornography,  AIDS,  and  the  Media 
(Minneapolis:  University  of  Minnesota  Press,  1987),  p.  9. 

6.  Treichler,  'An  Epidemic  of  Signification,"  p.  31. 

7.  Watney,  Policing  Desire,  p.  3. 


Special  thanks  to  Douglas  Cnmp,  Martha  Gever,  John  Greyson,  and 
B.  Ruby  Rich. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570  0537 


Copyright  C  1989  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art    48 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Eye  for  I:  Video  Self-Portraits 


October  3-29,  1989 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  October  10,  at  6:30. 
Raymond  Bellour  will  be  present. 


Schedule 

All  videotapes  are 


color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 


f 


*J 


Tuesdays  at  2:00;  Thursdays  and  Saturdays  at  11:30 

Joan  Jonas,  Vertical  Roll  (1972).  20  minutes,  and  /  Want  to  Live  in 

the  Country  (And  Other  Romances)  (1976),  30  minutes. 

Tuesdays  at  4:30;  Thursdays  and  Saturdays  at  1:30 

Vito  Acconci,  The  Red  Tapes  (1976).  black  and  white,  141  minutes; 

and  a  compilation  of  one-minute  excerpts  from  all  of  his  previous 

tapes,  prepared  by  Raymond  Bellour  (approximate  length,  30 

minutes). 

Tuesday,  October  10  at  4:00 

Vito  Acconci,  The  Red  Tapes,  foDowed  by  Gallery  talk  at  6:30  with 

Raymond  Bellour 

Wednesdays  and  Fridays  at  11:30;  Sundays  at  12:30 
Peter  Campus,  Three  Transitions  (1973),  5  minutes,  and  Set  of 
Coincidence  (1974),  13  minutes;  Pier  Marton,  7apes  (1978-79),  15 
minutes,  and  Hope  You  Croak  Before  Me  (1980),  3  minutes;  Juan 
Downey,  The  Looking  Glass  (1981),  29  minutes,  and  The  Motherland 
(1987),  7  minutes. 

Wednesdays  and  Fndays  at  1:30;  Sundays  at  2 :  30 
Bill  Viola,  The  Space  Between  the  Teeth  (1976),  9  minutes,  and  I  Do 
Not  Know  What  It  Is  I  Am  Like  (1986).  89  minutes;  Gary  Hill, 
Around  and  About  (1980),  5  mmutes,  and  Incidence  of  Catastrophe 
(1987-88).  44  mmutes. 


Eye  for  I:  Video  Self-Portraits 

In  Western  cultural  tradition,  the  term  "self-portrait"  im- 
mediately evokes  painting.  It  is  the  special  value  of  French 
scholar  Michel  Beaujour's  Miroirs  d'encre  to  have  estab- 
lished the  existence  of  the  Literary  self-portrait  parallel  to, 
yet  apart  from,  the  pictorial  model.1  Adopting  a  similar 
perspective,  we  can  speak  today  of  the  video  self-portrait 
without  feeling  obliged  to  refer  to  painting,  even  if  this 
autonomy  is  relative  in  each  case,  as  both  video  and  paint- 
ing converge  in  a  larger  context.2 

Autobiography,  cinema;  these  are  the  terms  that  will 
allow  us,  through  a  kind  of  negative  detour,  to  zero  in  on 
the  historical  emergence  of  the  video  self-portrait.  The 
literary  theorist  Elisabeth  Bruss  has  led  the  way,  in  a 
definitive  article  that  finds  cinema  lacking  a  tradition  com- 
parable to  that  of  the  literary  self-portrait.3  For  this  she 
gives  three  reasons,  corresponding  to  three  criteria  that 
define  the  genre  as  such. 


77ie  Red  Tapes,  1976  Vito  Acconci. 

1)  The  value  of  truth,  which  charges  the  author  to  speak 
the  truth,  as  it  pertains  to  the  veracity  of  sources  and  the 
sincenty  of  intentions.  Cinema  can  little  subscribe  to  this, 
torn  as  it  is  between  the  act  of  simply  recording  an  event 
and  that  of  re-telling  it,  between  the  staged  truth  of  mise- 
en-scene  and  the  truth  directly  registered  by  the  camera, 
between  the  contradictory  excesses  of  the  documentary 
and  fiction.  This  is  a  problem  unknown  to  language,  which 
can  never  be,  in  and  of  itself,  too  much  or  too  little  "real," 
smce  it  never  enters  into  a  direct  relation  with  reality. 

2)  The  value  of  the  act,  which  recognizes  authors  as  sub- 
jects responsible  for  the  behavior  meant  to  illustrate  their 
characters.  Cinema  has  more  trouble  directly  expressing 
this  presence;  the  marks  of  expression  employed  for  self- 
representation  in  the  image  tend  to  undermine  the  effects 
of  authenticity  and  reality  the  subject  wishes  to  convey. 

3)  The  value  of  identity,  which  draws  together  in  a  single 
person  the  author,  the  narrator,  and  the  protagonist.  In 
precisely  the  place  in  the  text  where  the  "I"  who  speaks 
becomes  confused,  as  a  matter  of  course,  with  the  "I" 
being  spoken  about,  there  is  in  cinema  an  almost  un- 
bridgeable gap  between  the  "I"  who  sees  and  the  "I"  who 
is  seen.  In  cinema,  the  subject  is  either  too  present  or  too 


The  New  Amencan  Film  and  Video  Senes  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  AT  &  T  Foundation. 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astona  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  John  D. 
and  Catherine  T  MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts.  Inc.,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Incidence  of  Catastrophe,  1987-88.  Gary  Hill. 


absent;  subjectivity  disappears  before  objectivity/the 
camera  lens  [in  French,  l'objectif  means  both  "objectivity" 
and  "lens"). 

Cntics  have  reproached  Bruss  for  the  rigidity  of  her  views, 
insisting  as  a  counter- argument  on  various  efforts,  numer- 
ous since  the  sixties,  that  have  aUowed  the  cinema  to 
express  the  "I"  and  to  open  itself  up  to  the  intimate,  the 
personal,  the  private,  the  subjective — in  short,  to  the  auto- 
biographical.4 Passing  from  the  extremes  of  experimental 
film  to  commercial  production,  these  efforts  link  such  di- 
verse figures  as  Raymond  Depardon  and  Maria  Koleva, 
Boris  Lehman  and  Jonas  Mekas,  Chantal  Akerman  and 
Orson  Welles,  Jim  McBride  and  Joseph  Morder,  Chris 
Marker  and  Federico  Fellini,  Stan  Brakhage  and  Jean  Coc- 
teau,  Robert  Frank  and  Hollis  Frampton.  Still,  it  is  rela- 
tively easy  to  show,  as  Bruss  had  done  to  some  extent,  that 
the  films  of  all  these  authors,  however  subjective  and 
autobiographical  they  may  be,  only  succeed  as  auto- 
biography by,  paradoxically,  exposing  the  marks  of  the 
impossibility  of  autobiography,  whose  pact  they  cannot 
truly  fulfill.  It  is  only  by  virtue  of  this  self-reflexivity  that 
they  enter,  in  their  individual  ways,  into  the  arena  Beau- 
jour  defines  as  the  form  and  tradition  of  the  literary  self- 
portrait. 

The  essays  of  Montaigne  are,  of  course,  the  founding, 
exemplary  texts  of  the  genre;  in  them,  we  see  how  the 
models  of  ancient  rhetoric  and  their  equivalents  in  re- 
ligious thought  are  bent  to  the  ends  of  personal  expres- 
sion. The  entire  rhetorical  system  of  places  and  images, 
the  dialectic  of  invention  and  memory  forged  since  anti- 
quity for  the  purpose  of  persuading  others,  undergoes 
a  metamorphosis  in  Montaigne's  troubled  search  for 
himself. 

The  self-portrait  is  distinguished  from  autobiography 
by  the  absence  of  a  story  one  is  obliged  to  follow.  Narration 
is  subordinated  in  the  former  to  a  logic,  a  collage  of  ele- 
ments ordered  according  to  a  series  of  rubrics,  of  thematic 
types.  The  self-portrait  clings  to  the  analogical,  the  meta- 


phorical, the  poetic,  far  more  than  to  the  narrative.  Its 
coherence  lies  in  a  system  of  remembrances,  after- 
thoughts, superimpositions,  correspondences.  It  thus 
takes  on  the  appearance  of  discontinuity,  of  anachronistic 
juxtaposition,  of  montage.  Where  autobiography  closes  in 
on  the  life  it  recounts,  the  self-portrait  opens  itself  up  to  a 
limitless  totality.  The  self-portraitist  announces:  "I'm  not 
going  to  tell  you  what  I've  done,  but  I  am  going  to  try  to  tell 
you  who  I  am."  To  this  expression  of  an  absence  of  self  and 
a  fundamental  uncertainty  about  identity,  nothing  the  au- 
thor writes  responds  fully,  yet  everything  responds  a  little. 
The  self-portraitist  passes  without  transition  from  a  void 
of  meaning  to  an  excess ,  without  a  clear  sense  of  direction 
or  action. 

The  self-portrait  is  a  work  born  of  idleness,  of  retreat.  To 
writing  as  action,  intervention,  belief  and  dialogue,  the 
self-portraitist  opposes  writing  as  inaction,  digression, 
and  monologue.  The  subject  of  the  self-portrait  is  en- 
cyclopedic, grasping  its  identity  through  the  optic  of  the 
world,  and  in  particular  of  culture — of  everything,  in  other 
words,  that  constitutes  the  individual.  The  subject  be- 
comes the  hero  of  the  book  and  of  the  book  posed  as  an 
absolute  in  the  quest  for  memory  and  the  search  for  self. 
The  book  is  thus  at  the  same  time  a  Utopia,  a  body,  and  a 
tomb.  Starting  from  the  most  personal  quest  possible,  the 
author  opens  the  self  up  to  the  impersonal,  moving  con- 
stantly from  the  particular  to  the  general,  with  no  other 
assurance  or  belief  than  that  of  individual  movement. 

Thus  has  the  self-portrait  developed  as  a  proper  and 
relatively  stable  form  from  Renaissance  to  modern  times, 
through  entire  works  devoted  to  a  life  (Montaigne  or  Mi- 
chel Leiris),  in  one  book  or  several  (Rousseau,  Nietzsche, 
Malraux,  Michel  Butor,  or  Roland  Barthes).  We  might  try  to 
characterize  it  as  a  formula:  "an  imaginary  stroll  through  a 
system  of  places,  a  repository  of  memory-images."5 

This  is  the  tradition  to  be  found,  with  all  the  expected 
displacements,  in  certain  obscure  corners  of  the  modern 
cinema.  Here  the  impossible  autobiography  of  cinema 
tends  toward  the  forms  of  the  self-portrait  in  various  ways, 
more  or  less  fragmentary,  more  or  less  developed.  And  it  is 
this  same  movement  that  appeared  about  fifteen  years 
ago  in  video  art,  only  endowed  with  a  new  force  and 
specific  possibilities.  This  happened  first  in  American 
video  art,  the  focus  of  this  program  (which  unfortunately 
is  burdened  with  the  difficult,  but  unavoidable,  task  of 
tracing  the  idea  of  the  self-portrait  through  only  two 
works  by  each  artist,  with  all  the  gaps  and  generalizations 
this  implies).  Soon  after,  the  same  idea  took  hold  in  Euro- 
pean video  art,  with  both  similar  effect  and  undeniable 
difference,  especially  in  light  of  the  more  profound  connec- 
tion European  video  art  had  maintained  with  cinema  (in 
Germany,  Marcel  Odenbach,  Ulrike  Rosenbach,  Klaus  vom 
Bruch,  Gerd  Belz;  in  Belgium,  Daniele  and  Jacques-Louis 
Nyst;  in  France,  Jean-Andre  Fieschi,  Thierry  Kuntzel, 
Jean-Luc  Godard;  and  in  Japan,  coming  from  yet  another 
tradition,  Video  Letter,  the  unique  and  admirable  work  of 
Shuntaro  Tanikawa  and  Shuji  Terayama).  As  to  why  video 
seems  to  lend  itself  more  particularly  and  certainly  more 
exclusively  than  cinema  to  the  pursuit  of  the  self-portrait, 
there  are  four  major  reasons. 


• 


1)  The  continual  presence  of  the  image  in  video,  its  instant 
feedback,  which  is  always,  without  delay,  like  a  double  of 
real  time;  both  go  on  and  on,  neither  ever  stops.  This  is  like 
our  relation  to  language,  which  provides  an  ongoing  foun- 
dation out  of  which  we  form  sentences  in  speech. 

2)  The  possibility  this  affords  authors  of  introducing  their 
bodies  more  naturally  and  directly  into  the  image,  and 
thus  gaining  direct  access  to  their  own  images  and  a 
means  of  wedding  themselves  to  the  intimacy  of  their 
gazes. 

3)  The  third  reason  has  to  do  with  the  image  itself.  It  is 
much  easier  in  video  to  play  with  the  image  and  transform 
it,  process  it  electronically,  in  both  recording  and  post- 
production.  The  video  image  is  thus  more  adept  at  trans- 
lating the  impressions  of  the  eye,  the  movements  of  the 
body,  the  processes  of  thought.  And  all  transformations 
the  images  undergo  seem  more  "natural,"  insofar  as  the 
video  image  itself  is  from  the  first  more  precarious,  more 
unstable,  and  more  artificial. 

4)  Finally,  video,  art  video,  is  directly  linked  to  television, 
with  both  its  technology  and  its  socio-cultural  reality. 
Video  seeks  to  distinguish  itself  from  television,  but  de- 
pends on  it  nonetheless,  both  materially  and  culturally, 
setting  the  fragility  of  its  subjective  voice  against  the 
creeping  tentacles  of  television's  universality  In  this  re- 
gard, the  video  self-portrait  repeats  the  history  of  the 
literary  self-portrait  as  it  emerged  from  a  transformation  of 
the  means  ancient  rhetoric  employed  to  assure  the  trans- 
mission of  invention  and  memory.  Today,  "mass  communi- 
cations," as  Barthes  said,  perform  more  or  less  the  same 
positive  functions  once  fulfilled  by  rhetoric.6 

Thus,  the  self-portrait  bases  itself  above  all  on  the  experi- 
ence of  the  body,  of  the  author's  own  body  as  site  and 
theater  of  experience.  As  such,  the  self-portrait  has  some- 
thing in  common  with  performance  art  and  can  in  part  be 
created  in  relation  to  it.  But  the  former  can  never  reduce 
itself  to  the  latter.  For  one  thing,  the  experience  is  incon- 
ceivable without  the  inscription  of  the  body  in  the  tech- 
nical apparatuses  (of  sound  and  image)  that  allow  one  to 
explore  the  self  through  the  very  process  of  producing  the 
work.  For  another  thing,  this  inscription  of  the  body  occurs 
in  specific  places,  with  elements  of  the  "world  encyclope- 
dia" redefined  in  the  unique  context  of  each  work  and 
each  experience. 

The  body  of  the  author  is  offered  as  such,  a  multiple 
being  charged  with  an  intense  capacity  for  presence.  To 
give  a  sense  of  the  weight  of  this  presence,  I  have  put 
together  for  this  program,  in  relation  to  Vito  Acconci's  The 
Red  Tapes,  a  montage  composed  of  one  minute  each  from 
thirty-three  tapes  shot  by  Acconci  between  1971  and  1974. 
Each  tape  is  conceived  on  the  same  model:  a  single  shot, 
mostly  static,  altered  by  slight  displacements  that  sug- 
gest a  breath-taking  body.  There  is  no  editing;  everything 
happens  in  real  time  and  closed  circuit.  Acconci  strikes  a 
range  of  poses:  seated,  lying  down,  both  back  and  face  to 
the  camera,  alone  or  with  someone,  fragmented  images 
often  reduced  to  a  single  detail  (for  example,  Acconci's 


wide-open  mouth).  He  is  frequently  silent  or  mumbling, 
but  more  often  he  is  talking  to  an  imaginary  interlocutor  or, 
more  directly,  to  the  spectator.  And  all  this  appears  in  the 
140  minutes  of  The  Red  Tapes,  the  self-portrait  par  excel- 
lence: the  experimental  body,  this  time  staged  as  such, 
simultaneously  coherent  and  dispersed,  but  always  pres- 
ent in  his  voice,  in  its  various  registers. 

Consider  all  the  tapes  in  this  exhibition:  each  one  con- 
tains, in  its  own  way,  the  same  insistence,  the  same 
provocation,  the  same  fragmentation,  the  same  reflection, 
all  threaded  through  the  body.  The  eight  mini-perfor- 
mances of  Tapes,  by  Pier  Marton,  comprise  yet  another 
anthology  of  postures,  embracing  the  destruction  of  ob- 
jects and  a  self-destruction  realized  through  a  prolifera- 
tion of  identities.  In  Peter  Campus'  seminal  tapes  (Three 
Transitions,  Set  of  Coincidence),  we  find  a  metamorphosed 
body  so  involuted  and  paradoxical  that  it  effaces  his  image 
and  seems  to  exhaust  the  basic  possibilities  of  layering,  of 
mixing  images.  Then  there  is  the  body  of  Joan  Jonas' 
Vertical  Roll,  cut  up,  magnified  by  costume  design,  broken 
up  in  each  frame  by  the  constant  presence  of  the  skipping 
horizontal  hold  bar,  or  the  Jonas  body  of  I  Want  to  Live  in 
the  Country  (And  Other  Romances),  the  body  that  wit- 
nesses, through  a  superimposition  of  images,  a  story  in 
the  process  of  telling  itself.  There  is  Gary  Hill's  frag- 
mented, tormented,  suffering  body,  curled  up,  on  the 
verge  of  death,  grunting,  mumbling,  manipulated  like  a 
cadaver  in  Incidence  of  Catastrophe;  or,  inversely,  the  very 
absent  body  that  fills  his  overcompensating  voice  in 
Around  and  About.  There  is  the  elliptical  body  of  Juan 
Downey,  hidden  behind  the  actor,  appearing  in  the  guise 
of  the  author  in  The  Motherland;  or  the  baroque  body  of 
the  master  gamesman,  scattered  across  the  game  of  the 
double  and  the  mirror,  Narcissus  burst  apart,  in  Downey's 
The  Looking  Glass.  And  finally,  the  reflexive,  meditative, 
supremely  present  body  of  Bill  Viola,  who  seeks  in  the 
vocal  cry  the  essence  of  sound  and  the  nascent  image  (The 
Space  Between  the  Teeth),  and  in  the  night  of  solitary 
creation,  the  condition  of  his  nameless  identity  (7  Do  Not 
Know  What  It  Is  I  Am  Like). 


I  Do  Not  Know  What  It  Is  I  Am  Like.  1986.  BUI  Viola. 


What  is  striking  in  these  self-portraits  is  the  near  ab- 
sence of  autobiography — that  is,  of  explicit,  nameable, 
referential  autobiography.  Once,  at  the  very  beginning  of 
Acconci's  The  Red  Tapes,  real  life  shows  through  briefly  in 
all  its  veracity:  "Like  everybody,  he  had  his  story.  Born  in 
the  Bronx,  Italian  origins.  Mother  living,  father  dead  .  .  .  ," 
etc.  But  this  position  is  suddenly  reversed  by  the  asso- 
ciative logic  of  the  self-portrait.  Similarly,  in  Downey's  The 
Motherland,  biography  attempts  to  assert  itself:  "I  have 
lived  in  this  house  for  twenty-one  years";  "I  was  born  in 
this  bed."  But  the  only  way  he  can  recount  his  life  is  to 
return  to  the  fable,  the  myth  (the  Christ-angel)  and  to 
proceed  by  companson,  by  montage  (e.g.,  the  inescapable 
presence  of  military  power  conveyed  by  that  of  television). 
For  the  subject,  the  "I,"  can  only  grasp  itself  through  a 
certain  number  of  cultural  and  personal  places,  memory- 
images  between  which  he  strolls,  losing  as  much  as  find- 
ing himself.  Hence,  Downey  again,  in  The  Looking  Glass, 
recounting  how  dunng  the  summer  of  1962  he  went  every 
day  to  the  Prado  to  look  at  Las  Meninas  and  experience 
before  it  an  intense  eroticism,  almost  an  orgasm:  "I  felt  my 
body  disappear  behind  the  silken  bust  of  the  infanta,  and 
my  skin  become  ocher,  adopting  a  pictorial  and  feverish 
texture."  The  moment  of  truth,  but  a  moment  that  is  in- 
stantly snatched  back  and  dissolved  into  the  path  that 
leads  the  subject  from  double  to  double,  in  and  through 
painting,  itself  a  mirror  among  mirrors. 

These  identifiably  personal  moments  are  immediately 
rewoven  into  the  associative  movement  by  which  the  au- 
thor, in  the  present  tense  of  the  tape  unfolding  before  our 
eyes,  departs  on  the  search  for  himself  across  the  signs  of 
the  world  that  constitute  his  own  world.  Each  self-portrait 
constructs  a  network  of  obsessions  that  cuts  up  and  orga- 
nizes the  world  according  to  the  law  of  what  Downey,  after 
Klee,  refers  to  as  "The  Thinking  Eye" — in  other  words,  the 
search  for  self  as  the  look,  which  is  also  the  dispersal, 
effacement,  and  dissemination  of  the  self.  Thus  we  get 
Acconci  in  The  Red  Tapes  furiously  naming  off  all  the 
places  in  America  that  are  linked  to  the  rudiments  of 
imaginary  alphabets,  infantile  lists,  collections  of  objects. 
The  "I"  that  searches  for  itself  with  an  immediate  thirst  for 
recognition  ("pull  me  together")  disappears  before  his 
eyes  in  the  mass  and  web  of  places  which  program  it ;  they 
become  so  many  points  of  corporeal  splitting,  points  that 
compose  and  recompose  to  infinity  the  imaginary  mass  of 
his  tortured,  wasted  body. 

In  introducing  these  real  and  imaginary  sites,  which  pre- 
sent so  many  possibilities  for  images,  the  look,  and  the 
body,  I  would  like  to  underline  four  modalities  that  strike 
me  as  ways  of  pushing  the  video  self-portrait  to  the  limit. 
The  first  involves  the  reduction  of  the  physical  site  to  the 
pure  properties  of  the  apparatus,  the  technology.  Peter 
Campus  provides  the  prototypical  example,  silently  sub- 
jecting his  body,  without  deviation,  to  the  properties  of  the 
medium.  As  such,  he  designates  a  zero  degree  of  the 
subject,  which  is  literally  annihilated  by  the  technology  (in 
this  case,  through  chroma-key)  whose  operation  he  re- 
stores to  its  electronic  capacities  of  transformation,  and 
therefore  to  its  very  being. 


The  second  modality  derives  from  a  unique  ability  to 
interchange  the  creation  of  places  and  the  medium's  ca- 
pacities for  expansion.  This  is  the  case  with  Bill  Viola,  an 
enigmatic  subject  born  of  this  interchange.  His  immersion 
in  nature  and  confinement  in  closed  spaces  become  the 
two  conditions  of  the  development  of  subjective  experi- 
ence by  the  space-time  of  video,  which  is  conceived  as  a 
sort  of  indefinite  present,  a  vibrant  and  condensed  tem- 
porality in  which  all  autobiography  is  reabsorbed  into  a 
systematic  exploration  of  the  technical  possibilities  of  im- 
age and  sound. 

The  third  modality  inheres  in  a  particular  attention  to 
the  still  image,  to  the  photographic,  as  both  a  memory 
image  and  a  smaller,  divisible  unit  in  a  chain  of  images. 
This  is  the  case  in  several  moments  of  The  Red  Tapes,  in 
instants  that  are  like  extended  flashes ;  it  is  also  the  princi- 
ple that  governs  the  image-by-image  decomposition  of 
Vertical  Roll,  with  its  constant  horizontal  bar  across  the 
screen;  and  it  is  the  final  lesson  of  The  Space  Between  the 
Teeth,  in  which  the  entire  tape  seems  to  reduce  itself  to  a 
single  image,  a  Polaroid  photo  falling  into  the  water. 

Finally,  the  fourth  modality  is  that  of  the  Book,  as  ground 
of  subjective  experience,  as  memorial  of  the  body.  Gary 
Hill  dared  to  engage  this  modality  in  Incidence  of  Catastro- 
phe, which  makes  use  of  Thomas  the  Obscure  by  Maurice 
Blanchot,  the  theoretician  par  excellence  of  "literary 
space";  the  result  is  a  strange  and  potent  meditation,  an 
intermingling  of  the  material  of  the  book  with  that  of  the 
body.  Hill  brings  the  modern  self-portrait  full  circle 
through  the  transformation  of  video:  back  to  Montaigne, 
to  the  moment  when  the  book  became  an  object  proper, 
detached  from  its  religious  vocation  of  belief  and  its  rhe- 
torical function  of  communication — in  other  words,  to  the 
moment  when  the  book  became  for  the  author  both  his 
body  and  his  tomb,  when,  well  before  Romanticism,  the 
Passion  of  Christ  was  transformed  into  the  pure  passion  to 

write. 

Raymond  Bellour 

Translated  by  Lynne  Kirby 

1   Miroirs  d'encre  (Pans:  Editions  Seuil.  1980). 

2.  The  self-portrait  in  painting  provides  the  point  of  reference  for  the 

only  text  to  my  knowledge  that  is  devoted  to  the  video  self-portrait: 

Helmut  Fnedel,  "The  New  Self-Portrait,"  in  Video  by  Artists  2 

(Toronto:  Art  Metropole,  1986). 
3   Elisabeth  Bruss,  "Eye  for  I:  Making  and  Unmaking  Autobiography,"  in 

Autobiography:  Essays  Theoretical  and  Critical  (Princeton,  New 

Jersey:  Princeton  University  Press,  1980). 

4.  In  particular,  Philippe  Lejeune  in  "Cinema  et  autobiographie:  Prob- 
lemes  de  vocabulaire,"  in  L'ecnture  du  je  au  cinema,  special  issue  of 
Revue  Beige  du  Cinema,  19  (Spring  1987). 

5.  Beaujour,  Miroirs  d'encre,  p.  110 

6   Roland  Barthes,  "L'ancienne  rhetonque,"  Communications,  no.  16 
(1970),  p  223. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
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Copyright  '    1989  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  49 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Image  World:  Metamedia 


1989-February  18,  1990 


J 


Metamedia:  Films  and  Videotapes,  1960-1989 

Metamedia  is  a  fourteen-week  survey  of  documentaries, 
avant-garde  films,  artists'  videotapes,  and  independent 
features  presented  as  part  of  the  exhibition  "Image  World : 
Art  and  Media  Culture."  The  program  celebrates  and  cri- 
tiques the  history,  genres,  styles,  and  institutions  of 
broadcast  television  and  Hollywood  cinema.  Comple- 
menting the  programs  of  independent  films  and  video- 
tapes are  two  additional  surveys  of  works  from  1960  to  the 
present:  one  of  broadcast  television,  including  the  key 
entertainment  programs,  news  events,  and  documen- 
taries from  network  television,  public  broadcasting,  and 
cable ;  the  other  of  Hollywood  feature  films  that  use  self- 
referential  strategies  to  reconsider  the  major  film  genres. 

Metamedia  sets  up  a  historical  and  critical  dialogue 
between  independent  productions  and  mainstream  me- 
dia entertainment.  During  alternating  weeks,  indepen- 
dent film  and  Hollywood  features  and  independent  video 
and  broadcast  television  programs  will  be  juxtaposed  in 
daily  screenings.  Thus  the  viewer  will  be  able  to  see  how 
artists  and  media  institutions  reflect  and  represent  their 
times  and  the  variety  of  aesthetic  and  formal  approaches 
they  take  to  the  cultural,  social,  and  political  issues  of 
media  production.  Metamedia  is  an  opportunity  to  chroni- 
cle the  film  and  media  landscape  of  America  during  a  time 
of  enormous  political  and  cultural  change. 

I  want  to  thank  the  contributing  consultants  for  their 
invaluable  work  on  this  project:  Paul  Arthur  (assistant 
professor  of  film  and  literature,  Montclair  State  College), 
independent  and  Hollywood  film;  Lucinda  Furlong  (as- 
sistant curator,  Film  and  Video,  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art),  independent  video;  Ronald  C.  Simon  (cura- 
tor of  television,  The  Museum  of  Broadcasting,  New  York), 

broadcast  television. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 

Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Hollywood  Features 

The  Hollywood  directors  who  began  their  careers  in  the 
mid-sixties  were,  historically,  the  first  conceivable  group 
to  consciously  harbor  a  childhood  ambition  of  becoming 
"moviemakers."  Before  this,  the  commercial  ranks  drew 
creative  talent  from  related  disciplines  such  as  theater  and 


Joan  Does  Dynasty  (1986),  Joan  Braderman  and  Paper  Tiger  Television. 
Photograph  by  Martha  Gever. 


journalism  and  from  a  variety  of  non-art  vocations.  Two 
decades  after  the  end  of  World  War  n,  in  a  climate  of 
economic  prosperity  and  social  unrest,  fledgling  directors 
maintained  a  relationship  to  the  movie  industry  unlike 
that  of  previous  generations.  They  had  grown  up  on  a 
steady,  even  pervasive,  diet  of  classical  genre  products 
and  had  a  far  more  extensive  knowledge  of  cinema  history 
than  their  predecessors.  Some  had  been  trained  in  univer- 
sity film  programs  and,  like  their  French  New  Wave  coun- 
terparts, a  few  had  contributed  to  the  growing  critical 
debates  over  authorship  versus  studio  control.  As  heirs  to 
a  great,  and  faltering,  tradition,  the  artists  who  shaped  the 
so-called  New  Hollywood  nurtured  a  deep  ambivalence 
that  surfaces  in  their  work  as  a  mixture  of  unbridled 
cultism  and  corrosive  demythologization. 

If  the  directors  of  the  last  thirty  years  manifest  some- 
thing of  an  Oedipal  tension  with  the  idea  of  studio  produc- 
tion, the  movie  industry  they  entered  was  itself  beset  by 
external  pressures  and  internal  defection  and  betrayals. 
After  the  corporate  bonanza  of  1946,  Hollywood's  ironclad 
hold  on  the  American  consumer  was  steadily  eroded.  The 
rise  of  television  shrank  audiences  and  profits.  A  Supreme 
Court-ordered  divestiture  of  theater  holdings  broke  the 
industry's  monopoly  over  exhibition.  The  McCarthyite 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  AT  &  T  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  John  D. 
and  Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Reed  Foundation,  Inc.,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  the  New  York 
State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Poltergeist  (1982),  Tobe  Hooper.  Photograph  courtesy  The  Museum  of 
Modem  Art/Film  Stills  Archive,  New  York. 


blacklisting  of  "subversives"  shattered  a  paternalistic 
promise  of  insularity  and  threw  into  turmoil  the  cozy  rela- 
tions between  labor  and  management.  By  the  mid-sixties, 
the  "genius  of  the  system,"  with  its  strict  divisions  of 
labor,  formal  conventions,  and  highly  salable  narrative 
formulas,  was  a  crumbling  nitrate  dream. 

These  conditions  opened  Hollywood  to  the  sort  of  wide- 
spread self-examination,  critique,  and  nostalgia  that  char- 
acterizes the  films  in  this  series.  But  the  same  reflexive 
scrutiny  is  also  evidence  of  an  expanding  cultural  discon- 
tent. As  New  Wave  directors  such  as  Godard  and  Truffaut 
knew  in  the  fifties,  the  well-knit  stories  of  classical  films 
and  their  forms  of  articulation  were  no  longer  adequate  to 
an  assessment  of  contemporary  life.  The  matrix  of  stock 
characters,  moral  attitudes,  and  predictable  resolutions 
which  constituted  Hollywood's  "message"  seemed  in- 
creasingly irrelevant. 

Lacking  a  secure,  univocal  footing  in  everyday  life,  the 
dramatic  structures,  emotional  registers,  and  visual  styles 
of  the  western,  musical,  film  noir,  and  other  genres  that 
the  younger  directors  inherited  were  reconstituted  in  a 
crucible  of  creative  reversals,  transpositions,  and  interpen- 
etrations.  J.  Hoberman  has  called  this  "genre-splicing." 
The  authority  of  the  Hollywood  product  as  an  edifice  of 
knowledge  has  been  exposed  by  the  films  of  the  last  thirty 
years  as  a  series  of  essentially  arbitrary  choices.  Musical 
comedy  and,  say,  the  western  did  not  occupy  distinct  ter- 
ritories because  of  any  "natural"  order.  They  did  so 
through  culturally  sanctioned  (and  profitable)  conven- 
tions of  unity,  clarity,  and  closure.  When  these  ceased  to  be 
absolute  prerequisites  to  an  entertaining  representation 
of  the  world,  the  film  industry  was  allowed,  perhaps  com- 
pelled, to  dissect  and  feed  off  of  its  previous  constructions. 

Needless  to  say,  this  situation  does  not  necessarily  gen- 
erate more  successful  or  aesthetically  pleasing  or  politi- 
cally progressive  movies.  Some  would  argue  quite  the 
opposite.  What  it  has  done  is  shift  the  terms,  the  mode  of 
address,  of  a  powerful  social  institution.  Popular  culture 
analyst  John  Cawelti,  in  discussing  the  "transformation" 
of  genres  since  the  late  sixties,  has  identified  four  basic 
modes  of  confronting  the  breakdown  in  textual  authority: 


humorous  burlesque  (Young  Frankenstein,  1975),  evoca- 
tion of  nostalgia  (Hearts  of  the  West,  1975),  demythologiza- 
tion  of  generic  myth  {Targets,  1968),  and  the  affirmation  of 
myth  as  myth  (Who  Framed  Roger  Rabbit?,  1988).  The 
categories  here  are  not  mutually  exclusive;  they  overlap  to 
some  degree  with  another  strategy — amply  represented 
in  the  series-of  straight  melodramatic  investigations  of 
the  media  industry  and  its  effects  on  the  social  imagina- 
tion (Network,  1976). 

In  a  sense,  this  last  group  of  films  attempts  a  kind  of 
meta-commentary  offering  in  place  of  the  fractured,  poly- 
semous  rendering  of  past  styles  a  new  cinematic  version 
of  truth  about  the  "untruthfulness"  of  the  image.  Yet  even 
as  these  films  struggle  to  bring  the  Hollywood  enterprise 
full  circle,  the  gap  will  not  be  closed.  What  began  during 
the  sixties  in  the  spirit  of  rebelliousness  and  demystifica- 
tion,  devolving  in  later  decades  into  a  demographic  sales 
pitch,  will  not  easily  be  overturned.  The  cannibalization  of 
movie  culture  is  not  a  passing  fad.  It  will  remain  a  viable 
option  until  the  endlessly  predicted  demise  of  the  medium 

itself. 

Paul  Arthur 


The  Avant-Gaide,  Documentary,  and 
Independent  Feature 

As  with  mainstream  productions,  film  at  the  margins  has 
emerged  through  its  own  system  of  pressures  and  priv- 
ileges. Often  it  has  been  precisely  the  financial,  techno- 
logical, and  formal  limitations  of  non-commercial  film  that 
have  dictated  the  scope  of  its  innovation  and  social  inter- 
vention. For  a  brief  moment  at  the  height  of  sixties'  coun- 
tercultural  activity,  avant-garde,  documentary,  and  inde- 
pendent feature  films  operated  with  a  shared  set  of  formal 
prerogatives  and  within  the  same  sphere  of  consumption. 
In  the  next  two  decades,  this  unanimity  of  purpose  was 
splintered. 

Originally,  these  now  separate  practices  sprung  from 
the  shrinking  hegemony  and  the  imagined  collapse  of  the 
Hollywood  studio  mode.  In  1961,  the  New  American  Cin- 
ema Group — politically  inclined  directors  and  pro- 
ducers— issued  a  manifesto  in  Film  Culture  magazine, 
declaring  the  bankruptcy  of  "official  cinema."  It  was,  they 
said,  "morally  corrupt,  aesthetically  obsolete,  thematically 
superficial,  temperamentally  boring."  They  advocated 
movies  "the  color  of  blood,"  a  mixture  of  modernist  self- 
examination  and  the  revision  of  Hollywood's  profit- 
oriented  use  of  the  cinematic  apparatus. 

The  expressed  objective  of  competing  with,  to  say 
nothing  of  overtaking,  commercial  film  was  of  course  un- 
realizable. However,  the  prospect  of  participating  in  a 
broad-based  social  upheaval  focused  creative  energies  in 
a  revaluation  of  cinema's  ambit  of  meaning  and  expres- 
sion. Undoubtedly  avant-garde  and  documentary  re- 
sponses were  tempered  by  the  weight  of  their  individual 
histories  and  by  surrounding  discourses  in  other  arts  and 
the  social  sciences.  The  filmic  avant-garde  drew  suste- 
nance from  painting  and  sculpture,  music  and  dance, 
while  American  documentarists  confronted  authoritarian 


techniques   associated   with   Depression   and   wartime 
"non-fiction"  film. 

Despite  differences  in  genesis  and  motivation,  several 
factors  have  predisposed  independent  films  of  the  past 
thirty  years  to  a  reflexive  consideration  of  the  medium's 
potential.  First  is  the  recognition  of  the  degree  to  which 
the  moving  picture  image  (including  TV)  suffuses  contem- 
porary consciousness,  giving  representation  the  power  to 
shape  our  beliefs  about  personal  identity,  social  interac- 
tion, sexuality,  and  class.  From  the  other  side  of  the  lens, 
an  intimate,  more-or-less  domestic  contact  with  privately 
owned  means  of  production  (cameras,  editing  devices, 
and  sometimes  printers)  mandates  close  scrutiny  of  the 
apparatus  as  a  subject  joined  to  the  regime  of  daily  life.  If 
one's  immediate  environment  continuously  takes  on  the 
aspect  of  a  "studio,"  the  exploration  of  film's  material 
bases  is  more  than  just  a  formalist  trope. 

Three  loosely  posited  approaches  to  the  issues  of  cin- 
ematic reflexivity  have  cut  across  different  sectors  of  inde- 
pendent production  since  the  1960s:  "depletion,"  "super- 
imposition,"  and  "intensification" — none  of  them  mutu- 
ally exclusive  or  inherent  to  any  given  sector.  Depletion  is 
perhaps  the  most  obvious.  It  entails  the  stripping  away  of 
expected  conventions  (change,  progression,  closure)  from 
filmed  incidents  or  their  temporal  supports.  The  applica- 
tion of  this  approach  ranges  from  Warhol's  early  fixed- 
camera  portraits  to  the  skeletal  reconstitution  of  narrative 
and  dramatic  cues  (Born  in  Flames,  1983). 

The  second  approach  is  the  most  prevalent  and  is  fre- 
quently tied  to  the  reworking  of  previously  existing 
footage.  Here  the  filmmaker  inscribes  a  new  set  of  visual 
or  discursive  or  thematic  values  over  a  commonplace  pre- 
text. The  object  might  be  to  release  a  hidden  universe  of 
form  through  juxtaposition  (Valse  Triste,  1979)  or  optical 
denaturing  (Side-winder's  Delta,  1976).  Similarly,  by  mobi- 
lizing conflicts  between  speech  and  image,  by  employing 
cadenced  repetition,  freeze-frames,  and  other  devices,  a 
number  of  films  wedge  oppositional  commentaries  into  a 
succession  of  "official"  artifacts. 

intensification  can  involve  the  restaging  of  narrative  or 
documentary  tropes  in  a  hyperbolic  register  (Ho7d  Me 
While  I'm  Naked,  1966),  but  it  may  also  result  from  a  mi- 
nute concentration  on  the  structure  or  social  implications 
of  a  particular  image  or  group  of  images  (Microcultural 
Incidents  in  Tbn  Zoos,  1971).  Magnified  and  thus  forced  to 
yield  an  excess  of  meaning,  procedures  of  representation 
are  rendered  in  complex  intertextual  patterns.  Where  de- 
pletion fosters  insight  through  absence,  intensification 
overloads  the  viewing  experience  with  insoluble  alter- 
natives. 

Paul  Arthur 


Tblevision 

Not  only  has  television  transformed  our  public  and 
cultural  life,  but  over  the  past  thirty  years  it  has  trans- 
formed itself.  The  medium  has  become  increasingly  con- 
scious of  the  way  it  presents  and  interprets  the  real  and 
fictional  worlds  as  well  as  how  it  helps  to  create  a  national 
consensus  of  values  and  beliefs.  Television  has  been  a 


profound  contributor  to  our  common  Image  World  and  The 
Museum  of  Broadcasting  screenings  suggest  ways  in 
which  both  commercial  and  public  television,  in  develop- 
ing traditions  of  creative  expression,  have  perceived  their 
roles  as  cultural  and  social  forces. 

By  the  early  1960s,  television  had  come  of  age.  The  vast 
wasteland  assumed  the  mantle  of  national  healer  as 
Americans  kept  vigil  by  their  television  sets  during  the 
assassination  and  funeral  of  President  John  E  Kennedy. 
The  sense  of  electronic  community  has  since  been  re- 
capitulated in  times  of  tragedy  (the  Challenger  disaster) 
no  less  than  exhilaration  (the  Bicentennial  and  Olympic 
hockey  celebrations). 

The  launching  of  Telstar  I  in  1962  resulted  in  the  trans- 
mission of  live  images  and  sounds  across  the  Atlantic 
Ocean;  five  years  later  the  public  television  broadcast  Our 
World  (1967)  had  satellite  link-ups  around  the  world,  and 
thirty  countries  instantaneously  witnessed  Leonard  Bern- 
stein and  Van  Cliburn  in  rehearsal  at  Lincoln  Center  and 
the  Beatles  at  work  in  a  London  studio.  By  1985,  1.6  billion 
people  were  able  to  view  the  Live  Aid  concert.  Satellites 
have  not  only  made  possible  intercontinental  dialogues  on 
Nightline  (1980-present),  but  also  facilitated  the  distribu- 
tion of  programming  created  by  a  whole  new  industry, 
cable  television.  Such  services  as  CNN  and  MTV  now  have 
a  continuous,  global  presence. 

As  television  was  expanding  the  range  of  its  signal, 
producers  were  at  work  reconceptualizing  the  form  and 
content  of  its  message.  Ernie  Kovacs'  comedy  experi- 
ments in  the  early  sixties  created  a  new  television  reality 
that  exposed  both  the  technology  and  language  of  the 
medium.  The  show's  fragmented  structure,  an  electronic 
vaudeville  borrowing  equally  from  high  art  and  mass 
culture,  anticipated  the  video  collages  of  Rowan  and  Mar- 
tin's Laugh-In  (1968-73),  The  Great  American  Dream  Ma- 
chine (1971-72),  and  Sesame  Street  (1969-present). 

The  documentary  has  also  undergone  a  reworking.  60 
Minutes  (1968-present)  and  the  Public  Broadcasting  Lab- 
oratory (PBL)  (1967-69)  developed  the  magazine  format 
for  the  presentation  of  news.  The  tradition  of  the  docu- 
mentary as  provocateur  was  sustained  by  Peter  Davis' 
CBS  Reports:  The  Selling  of  the  Pentagon  (1971).  Mean- 
while, an  ad  hoc  collective  of  video  artists,  TVTV  (Top 
Value  Television),  was  pioneering  a  brand  of  counter- 
culture journalism,  utilizing  portable  video  equipment. 

The  concept  of  narrative  in  television  has  altered  signifi- 
cantly during  the  past  three  decades.  An  American  Family 
(1973)  was  a  cinema  verite  examination  of  a  real-life  family 
in  domestic  confusion,  produced  in  twelve  installments. 
Mary  Hartman,  Mary  Hartman  (1976-78)  transmuted  the 
formulas  of  soap  opera  into  a  satire  on  American  consum- 
erism. While  Roots  (1977)  and  Holocaust  (1978)  blurred  fact 
and  fiction,  giving  the  miniseries  a  historical  resonance, 
Hill  Street  Blues  (1981-87)  overlapped  black  humor  and 
melodrama  in  a  serial  narrative  to  evoke  the  public  and 
private  sides  of  police  life.  (Hill  Street  transposed  into  the 
dramatic  mode  many  of  the  video  verite  techniques  of 
Alan  and  Susan  Raymond's  The  Police  Tapes  [1976].) 
Prime-time  storytelling,  which  once  required  resolution  in 
a  single  episode,  has  embraced  the  ongoing  narrative. 


Borrowing  from  the  structure  of  the  daytime  serial,  Dallas 
(1978-present)  and  Dynasty  (1981-89)  have  generated  in- 
tense audience  involvement. 

Television  in  the  eighties  has  become,  in  David  Marc's 
words,  "self-reflexive  at  last,"  a  conscious  custodian  of  its 
own  heritage.  Saturday  Night  Live  (1975-present),  SCTV 
Network  (1981-84)  and  Late  Night  with  David  Letterman 
(1982— present)  incorporate  the  audience's  expectation 
and  knowledge  of  television  conventions  into  the  rhythm 
of  the  show.  The  drama  Special  Bulletin  (1983)  simulated  a 
newscast  concerning  an  attempt  by  a  group  of  protestors 
to  wreak  nuclear  havoc.  The  emotional  impact  of  Special 
Bulletin  was  heightened  by  viewers'  familiarity  with  tele- 
vision journalistic  processes  (perhaps  greatly  informed  by 
the  on-air  piecing  together  of  the  story  surrounding  the 
attempted  assassination  of  President  Reagan). 

Images  from  television  resonate  in  the  public  con- 
sciousness. Our  common  experience  is  the  television  ex- 
perience of  politics,  war,  crisis,  heroism,  and  fantasy. 
These  screenings  examine  how  both  television  and  its 
audience  have  been  grappling  with  the  medium's  history 

and  impact.  _       , ,  _  _. 

Ronald  C.  Simon 


Independent  Video 

Ever  since  artists,  hippies,  and  proponents  of  "guerrilla" 
television  took  up  portable  video  technology  in  the  late 
1960s,  virtually  every  discussion  of  their  work  has  been 
dominated  by  the  subject  of  television.  Although  artists 
and  activists  alike  shared  an  acute  sense  of  alienation 
from  television's  programming,  one-way  delivery  system, 
and  monopolistic  control  by  the  networks,  several  dif- 
ferent positions  have  evolved  regarding  independent 
video's  relation  to  its  older  and  more  powerful  sibling. 

The  first  argument,  dating  to  the  early  1970s  when 
some  artists  were  committed  to  the  formalist  pursuit  of 
locating  video's  "intrinsic"  properties,  maintains  a  sepa- 
ratist position.  Certain  uses  of  video  technology,  par- 
ticularly installation  pieces,  reflect  concerns  that  are  more 
akin  to  the  art  world  than  to  TV  and  show  little  interest  in 
television,  either  as  subject  matter  or  distribution  outlet. 
At  the  other  extreme  are  the  proponents  of  "television  art" 
who  have  argued,  most  vociferously  in  the  early  1980s, 
that  artists  can  buy  into  the  industry's  system  of  produc- 
tion and  distribution  without  necessarily  replicating  its 
commercial  product.  But  by  far  the  most  pervasive  at- 
titude toward  television  is  a  deep  ambivalence  which  has 
taken  many  forms:  Utopian  celebration,  counter- represen- 
tation, absurdist  parody,  ironic  appropriation,  and  de- 
constructivist  critique.  Each  of  these  strategies  has  its 
own  logic,  intent,  and  effect  in  terms  of  how  it  comments 
on  television's  codes  and  content. 

Utopian  celebration.  Nam  June  Paik's  Global  Groove  (1973) 
epitomizes  the  Utopian  desire  for  a  time  when  the  TV  dial 
will  offer  artist-produced  fare.  Structured  as  a  model  pro- 
gram guide,  the  tape  has  the  rapid  pace  associated  with 
more  recent  editing  styles  of  music  television.  The  flip  side 
of  this  idealized  model  is  Ant  Farm's  Media  Burn  (1975),  a 


media  event  in  which  the  anarchic  overthrow  of  television 
as  an  institution  is  symbolized  by  the  actual  destruction  of 
a  wall  of  television  sets  in  a  fiery  blaze. 

Counter-representation.  Independent  documentaries  ex- 
tend conventional  formats  to  present  viewpoints  and  sub- 
jects not  usually  seen  on  TV  This  tradition  within  indepen- 
dent video  can  be  traced  from  early  half-inch,  black-and- 
white  tapes  such  as  Four  More  Years  (1972),  Top  Value 
Television's  sardonic  look  at  the  1972  Republican  National 
Convention,  and  Jon  Alpert  and  Keiko  Tsuno's  Cuba:  The 
People  (1974).  Recent  examples  include  Testing  the  Limits 
(1987),  by  the  AIDS  activist  group  Testing  the  Limits 
Collective. 

Parody.  By  using  imitation  and  hyperbole,  tapes  such  as 
Mitchell  Kriegman's  The  Marshall  Klugman  Show  (1979) 
and  Jaime  Davidovich's  The  Live!  Show  (1983)  parody  their 
variety-show  counterparts  in  broadcast  television.  Like- 
wise, T.R.  Uthco's  The  Amarillo  News  Tapes  (1980)  fore- 
grounds the  vacuity  of  local  TV  news,  while  Michael  Smith 
deflates  the  male  music  star  in  Go  for  It,  Mike  (1984),  a 
spoof  of  a  music  video. 

Ironic  appropriation.  Artists  have  taken  TV  footage  and,  in 
an  ironic  mode,  reworked  intended  meanings  to  produce 
the  opposite  effect.  In  Technology /Transformation:  Won- 
der Woman  (1978),  Dara  Birnbaum  obsessively  repeats  a 
sequence  of  Wonder  Woman  spinning,  so  that  the  figure  is 
effectively  frozen  into  an  image  of  powerlessness.  Jason 
Simon  presents  a  series  of  TV  commercials  in  Production 
Notes:  Fast  Food  for  Thought  (1987)  and  then  plays  them 
again  in  slow  motion  with  a  cold,  calculating  voice-over 
describing  to  whom  the  ad  is  being  pitched  and  how  it  is 
produced. 

Deconstructivist  critique.  Most  recently,  artists  have  artic- 
ulated analyses  of  television  that  use  new  theories  of  mass 
media  and  demystify  the  production  process.  Paper  Tiger 
Television  began  in  1981  on  cable  TV  in  New  York  City  as  a 
weekly  program  dedicated  to  providing  critical  readings  of 
the  media.  In  Joan  Does  Dynasty  (1986),  a  tape  produced 
for  Paper  Tiger,  Joan  Braderman  humorously  picks  apart 
the  social  and  political  messages  behind  a  show  she  freely 
admits  being  addicted  to.  The  tape  is  both  a  critical  and 
literal  intervention  in  that  Braderman's  own  image  is  in- 
serted via  video  keying  into  every  scene. 

Lucinda  Furlong 

Television  programs  for  Metamedia  were  selected  from  the  permanent 
collection  of  The  Museum  of  Broadcasting  and  presented  under  its 
auspices. 

Additional  funding  for  Metamedia  has  been  provided  through  a 
generous  gift  from  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astona 
Studios,  Inc. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 
945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copvnght  '    1989  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  50 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Shu  Lea  Cheang 


Color  Schemes,  1990 

Video  installation.  On  view  continuously. 


February  27-March  25,  1990 

Gallery  talk,  Tuesday  March  13,  at  6:30 
Shu  Lea  Cheang  will  be  present. 


Components 

4  video  monitors;  4  videotape  playback  decks;  3  %"  videotapes, 
color,  sound,  15  minutes;  1  W  videotape,  color,  silent,  6  hours. 

3  washing  machines,  neon  sign,  24-foot  table,  tablecloth,  12  dinner 
plates,  12  plastic  TV  dinners,  12  crystal  water  goblets,  12  crystal 
wine  glasses,  4  crystal  pitchers,  12  settings  of  silverware,  12 
napkins. 

Videotape  credits 

Videotape  in  collaboration  with  the  performers;  Maria  Aponte, 
Rafael  Baez,  Diane  Burns,  Jimmy  Durham,  Vincent  Edwards, 
Sandra  Esteves,  Jessica  Hagedorn,  Verna  Hampton,  Glona  Miguel, 
Robbie  McCauley  Nicky  Paraiso,  Emily  Woo  Yamasaki.  Voice  of 
good  manners:  Adnene  Jeruk.  Directors  of  photography:  Klaus 
Hoch-Guinn,  David  Shulman.  Sound  recordist:  Steve  Ning  Back- 
drop painter:  Carol  Mazurk.  Computer  graphics:  Ingin  Kim.  Music 
composition:  Tiye  Giraud,  Pamela  Patnck,  Ge  Gan  Ru,  Margaret 
Leng  Tan.  Audio  mix  engineer:  Alex  Noyes,  Harvestworks.  On-line 
videotape  editor:  Rick  Feist,  Standby  Program 

Installation  credits 

Electronic  engineer:  Maurice  St.  Sauveur.  Mechanical  design:  Joel 
Katz.  Plastic  TV  dinners:  Mary  Feaster. 

Baccarat  crystal  and  Gien  faience  dinnerware  courtesy 
Baccarat,  Inc.,  New  York. 


Color  Schemes,  1990. 


Shu  Lea  Cheang's  Color  Schemes  employs  an  unusual 
combination  of  metaphors  to  tackle  Amencan  attitudes 
toward  race  and  racial  assimilation.  The  central  compo- 
nents of  this  video  installation  are  a  long  dining  table,  a 
bank  of  three  front-loading  industrial  washing  machines, 
and  a  neon  sign  flashing  the  words  "Service  and  Self- 
Service."  Inside  each  washing  machine,  visible  through  a 
round  glass  window,  is  a  video  monitor  displaying  a  video- 
tape loop.  By  inserting  two  quarters,  the  viewer  activates 
the  machine,  causing  the  video  monitors  to  spin. 

For  Cheang,  the  color  wash,  with  its  four  cycles — soak, 
wash,  rinse,  and  spin — becomes  a  means  of  exploring  the 
social  processes  by  which  people  of  color  are  either  assim- 
ilated into  the  fabnc  of  Amencan  society  or  marginalized 
from  it.  To  make  her  point,  she  draws  on  the  experiences  of 


twelve  Asian-American,  Black,  Latino,  and  Native  Amer- 
ican actors.  Each  tape  loop  features  four  of  the  actors.  In 
the  first  scene,  which  appears  on  all  three  monitors,  they 
are  seen  dining  together  at  a  table  reminiscent  of  repre- 
sentations of  the  Last  Supper.  The  low  murmur  of  their 
voices  is  audible  only  as  an  indiscernible  mishmash  of 
sound.  As  the  tapes  continue,  however,  their  individual 
voices  emerge  from  this  jumble  to  tell  pithy  stories  about 
auditions  and  agents.  One  actress  speaks  of  being  re- 
jected by  an  agent  because  she  was  "too  ethnic,"  -while 
another  agent  told  her  she  looked  like  she  "could  knife 
someone  in  the  dark."  Although  some  of  the  experiences 
recounted  are  blatant  instances  of  racism,  others  are  more 
ironic,  revealing  the  complexity  of  the  issues  surrounding 
racial  stereotyping.  When  a  Native  American  actor  said 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  AT  &  T  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman- Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  John  D.  and 
Catherine  T  MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the 
National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Composite  photograph  of  scene  from  Color  Schemes,  1990.  Photograph  by  Lona  Foote. 


he'd  played  the  roles  of  both  cowboy  and  Indian,  a  white 
actor  replied:  "So,  you're  an  Indian  and  a  cowboy.  Be  care- 
ful you  don't  shoot  yourself." 

The  color  wash  has  other  implications  as  well  about  the 
often  contradictory  messages  and  attitudes  embedded  in 
American  society  and  culture.  The  washing  machine  func- 
tions as  a  container  suggesting  confinement,  to  certain 
kinds  of  jobs  and  neighborhoods,  and  to  fixed  racial  cate- 
gories. The  process  of  washing  itself  implies  assimila- 
tion— the  removal  of  color  and,  hence,  ethnicity.  At  the 
same  time,  the  fading  or  bleeding  of  color  implies  the  loss 
of  individual  identity,  as  when  people  blur  racial  distinc- 
tions. As  one  Native  American  actress  recalled:  "No,  I'm 
not  Chinese;  no,  I'm  not  Spanish.  Yea,  Indian.  No,  we're 
not  extinct." 

A  second  aspect  of  Color  Schemes  was  inspired  by  a 
quote  from  the  late  civil  rights  leader  Malcolm  X:  "I've  got 
a  plate  in  front  of  me,  but  nothing  is  on  it.  Because  all  of  us 
are  sitting  at  the  same  table,  are  all  of  us  diners?"  A  long 
dimng  table  is  elegantly  set  with  a  service  for  12;  the  TV 
dinners  that  await  the  guests,  however,  are  far  less  ele- 
gant than  the  dinnerware  on  which  they  are  served. 

The  individuals  who  emerge  from  Color  Schemes  pos- 
sess a  vibrancy  that  is  more  akin  to  a  "brilliant  mosaic," 
with  all  its  cracks  and  complexity  than  the  American 
melting  pot.  As  Cheang  has  described  the  piece,  Color 
Schemes  "reveals  our  schemes  to  claim  images  of  color 
corrected  and  to  remain  color  vivid." 

Lucinda  Furlong 
Assistant  Curator, 
Film  and  Video 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday- Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Biography 

Shu  Lea  Cheang  was  born  in  Taiwan  in  1954.  She  graduated  from 
National  Taiwan  University  (B.A.,  1976),  and  New  York  University  (M.A.. 
1979).  She  has  received  grants  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the 
Arts  (1986,  1988,  1989),  Art  Matters,  Inc.  (1987),  the  Jerome  Foundation 
(1989),  the  New  York  Foundation  for  the  Arts  (1989),  and  the  Rockefeller 
Foundation  (1990).  She  has  been  a  member  of  the  Paper  Tiger  Television 
Collective  since  1982.  a  producer  for  the  national  satellite  senes  "Deep 
Dish  TV,"  and  a  program  contributor  to  the  senes  "The  90s." 
Cheang  lives  and  works  in  New  York. 


Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

American  Film  Institute,  Los  Angeles,  1985  American  Film  Institute 
Video  Festival  (also  1989);  "Women  in  the  Director's  Chair,"  Chicago, 
1986  (also  1990);  "Cinemad'art  '87,"  Barcelona,  1987;  Whitney  Museum 
of  American  Art,  New  York,  "Social  Engagement:  Women's  Video  m  the 
'80s,"  1987;  The  7th  Asian  American  International  Video  Festival,  Asian 
Cine  Vision,  New  York.  1989;  European  Media  Art  Festival,  Osnabnick. 
West  Germany,  1989;  The  Kitchen,  New  York,  "Child,"  1990;  The 
Brooklyn  Museum,  New  York,  "The  Feminist  'I,'  "  1990;  Amencan 
Museum  of  the  Moving  Image,  Astona,  New  York.  "My  Country  'Tis  of 
Thee,"  1990;  Institute  of  Contemporary  Art,  Boston,  "Currents,"  1990. 


Selected  Videography 

All  works  are  V  videotape,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 
Renee  Tajima  Reads  Asian  Images  in  Amencan  Film:  Charlie  Chan  Go 

Home!,  1985.  Produced  for  Paper  Tiger  Television 

28  minutes. 
The  Trial  of  Tilted  Arc,  1985  and  1989.  52  minutes. 
Racism  on  Mam  Street:  A  Look  Around  Your  Comer,  1986.  Co-produced 

with  Roy  Wilson  for  Deep  Dish  TV  58  minutes. 
Re-reading  the  Dragon.  1986.  Produced  for  Paper  Tiger  Television. 

28  minutes. 
Thulani  Davis  Asks  Why  Howard  Beach7:  Racial  Violence  and  the  Media, 

1987  Produced  for  Paper  Tiger  Television.  28  minutes. 
Exclusive  Report  on  How  History  Was  Wounded.  1989.  Produced  for 

Paper  Tiger  Television.  28  minutes. 
For  the  Woman  in  You,  1989.  2  minutes. 
Making  News,  Making  History:  Live  from  Tiananmen  Square.  1989. 

Video  installation;  4  videotapes,  30-minute  loops;  1  videotape, 

2Vz-minute  loop. 
News  from  Afar,  1989  15  minutes. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Furlong,  Lucinda.  "Social  Engagement:  Women's  Video  in  the  '80s." 
The  New  American  Filmmakers  Series  36  (program  note).  New  York: 
Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art,  1987. 

Kenny,  Lorraine.  "Social  Studies."  Afterimage,  14  (May  1987),  p.  18 


Copynght  I    1990  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  Amencan  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art   5 1 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  April  24,  at  6:15. 
Klaus  Schoning  will  be  present. 


3 


All  works  in  the  exhibition  were  lent  by  WDR  Cologne  and  pro- 
duced by  WDR,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Roaratono:  An  Irish  Circus  on  Fmnegans  Wake,  1979,  John  Cage,  60 
minutes 

Bean  Sequences,  1982,  Alison  Knowles,  29  minutes 

Dialogue  Among  Poets,  1982,  Jackson  Mac  Low,  31  minutes 

The  "Hsin  Hsm  Ming"  by  Seng  Ts'an,  1983,  George  Brecht, 
31  minutes 

The  Beaver's  Hdrspiel,  1984,  Jerome  Rothenberg,  36  minutes 

Metropolis  New  York,  1984,  Richard  Kostelanetz, 
60  minutes 

Something  (to  do)  doing,  1984,  Sorrel  Hays,  25  minutes 

Signale,  1985,  Tom  Johnson,  22  minutes 

Pas  de  Voix  (Portrait  of  Samuel  Beckett),  1986,  Charles  Amirkhanian, 
17  minutes 

Humayuns  Tomb,  1987,  Pauline  Oliveros,  30  minutes 

Metropolis  Las  Vegas,  1987,  David  Schein  and  Florian  Stembiss, 
30  minutes 

Satellite  Sound  Bridge  Cologne-San  Francisco,  1987,  Bill  Fontana 
60  minutes;  produced  by  WDR  and  APR. 

Voyage  to  California,  1987,  Larry  Wendt  and  Henri  Chopin, 
10  minutes 

Web:  For  John  Cage,  1987,  David  Tudor,  4  minutes 

For  Julian,  1988,  Alvm  Curran,  30  minutes 

Ishi/Timechangingspaces,  1988,  Malcolm  Goldstein,  21  minutes 

Roadtnp,  1989,  Marjone  van  Halteren,  26  minutes 

Schwitters  Extended:  A  Transplantation,  1989,  Stephan 
von  Huene,  19  minutes 

Voices,  1989,  Charlie  Morrow,  45  minutes 

Satie's  Rose  Cross  as  a  Revelation,  1990,  Philip  Comer, 
16  minutes. 


J 


Philip  Comer,  drawing  for  Saties  Rose  Cross  as  a  Revelation,  1990.  Ink  on 
paper,  8Vt  X  10  inches.  Collection  of  Klaus  Schoning. 


American  Audio  Art  on  WDR 

During  the  past  decades,  as  a  result  of  cross-disciplinary 
endeavors  in  the  arts — a  Verschmelzungsprozess  (fusion)  as 
Walter  Benjamin  called  it — important  aesthetic  innovations 
have  taken  place.  In  the  field  of  acoustics,  this  process  has 
led  to  the  development  of  an  art  form  we  call  "acoustic  art." 
Acoustic  art — a  world  of  language  and  a  world  of  sounds 
and  noises.  It  is  language  that  leans  toward  sound,  sound 
that  leans  toward  language  and  music,  to  all-inclusive 
tonalities — to  the  acoustic  environment.  Acoustic  art  is  a 
symbiosis  of  the  worlds  of  language  and  noise  and  the 
organization  of  sounds  through  electronic  technology.  Its 
recording,  sensible  ear  is  the  microphone;  its  sound  carrier, 
the  sound  tape,  the  cassette,  the  record,  the  microchip;  its 
speaking  mouth,  the  loudspeaker.  And  one  of  its  ideal 
voices,  in  the  auditorium  accessible  to  all,  is  the  radio. 

If  we  excavate  the  archaeological  digs  of  acoustic  art,  we 
find  non-semantic  sound  poetry  as  early  as  the  end  of  the 
nineteenth  century,  say,  in  works  of  Paul  Scherbarth  and 
Christian  Morgenstern.  Nevertheless,  it  was  the  Russian 


Futurists,  including  Velimir  Khlebnikov,  Alexei  Kruchenykh, 
David  Burliuk,  and  Vladimir  Mayakovsky,  who  took  the 
decisive  step  toward  the  emancipation  of  language  sounds. 
In  their  manifesto,  "vowels  represent  time  and  space,  and 
consonants  are  color,  sound  and  scent."  It  was  also  at  this 
time  that  Wassily  Kandinsky  published  his  poetical-graphic 
work  Sounds  (1912),  creating  something  similar  to  a  "musi- 
cal" painting,  or,  in  his  words,  "symphonic  compositions 
and  sounds  of  color." 

The  Italian  Futurists,  led  by  Filippo  Tommaso  Marinetti, 
wanted  to  abandon  syntax  and  called  for  the  simultaneous 
speaking  of  texts.  The  theoretical  foundation  of  the  aes- 
thetics of  acoustic  art  was  Luigi  Russolo's  manifesto  "L'arte 
dei  rumori,"  published  as  early  as  1913.  He  was  the  first  to 
suggest  that  sound  be  incorporated  in  musical  compositions 
as  an  element  of  equal  value  to  music. 

In  the  world  of  Dada,  Raoul  Hausmann  and  Merz  artist 
Kurt  Schwitters  recited  in  1916  the  first  letter  poems — 
phonetically  constructed  nonsense  poems — opening  the 
way  for  the  development  of  acoustic  poetry,  whose  instru- 
ment was  the  human  voice,  with  its  wide  range  of  possible 
expressions.  Decades  later,  this  range  would  be  expanded 
with  the  help  of  electronic  technology.  The  development  of 
sound  poetry  made  further  progress  during  the  fifties  and 
sixties  with  the  Ultra  Lettrists  around  Henri  Chopin  and 
Francois  Dufrene,  the  proponents  of  concrete  and  phonetic 
poetry.  The  Russian  filmmaker  Dziga  Vertov  had  already 
laid  additional  foundations  for  acoustic  art  with  the  estab- 


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11  inches  Collection  of  Klaus  Schoning 


lishment,  in  1916,  of  his  "Laboratory  of  Hearing,"  where  he 
realized  the  first  documentary  compositions  and  musical- 
literary  montages  of  words.  In  1930,  the  German  filmmaker 
Walther  Ruttmann  used  audio  from  a  sound  film  in  Week- 
end, the  first  acoustic  montage  in  radio  history.  This  marked 
the  beginning  of  the  evolution  of  an  autonomous  "language" 
of  acoustic  art.  In  the  field  of  music,  the  tonal  environment — 
noises,  as  Russolo  suggested — began  to  be  incorporated  in 
compositions  in  the  late  1910s.  Since  the  1950s,  these  noises 
have  included  electronically  produced  sounds.  Subsequent 
developments  were  determined  by  electro-acoustic  proc- 
esses and  montages  of  sound  tape. 

For  the  radio  itself,  Pierre  Schaeffer  and  Pierre  Henry 
established  the  Club  d'Essai  in  the  1940s,  an  experimental 
audio  program  at  station  ORTF  Paris,  and  developed  a  gram- 
mar of  "found"  sounds  and  noises  known  as  musique  con- 
crete. John  Cage,  working  at  the  same  time  but  outside  of 
radio,  created  his  trailblazing  compositions  using  records, 
phonographs,  sound  tape,  and — as  an  instrument — the  ra- 
dio. In  1952,  the  first  electronic  studio  in  the  history  of  music 
was  founded  by  Hans  Eimert  at  station  WDR  Cologne,  of 
which  Karlheinz  Stockhausen  became  director,  in  1963.  This 
electronic  "Studio  der  Neuen  Musik"  (Studio  of  New  Music) 
soon  acquired  a  worldwide  reputation.  Unlike  ORTF's  Club 
d'Essai,  which  emphasized  found  sounds,  the  work  pro- 
duced at  WDR  focused  exclusively  on  electronic  sounds. 
During  the  sixties,  WDR  established  its  Neue  Horspiel  Stu- 
dio (New  Radio  Play  Studio)  to  present  the  dramatic  art  of 
radio  plays.  Based  primarily  on  acoustic  elements,  the  con- 
cept also  incorporates  musical  composition,  as  well  as  tech- 
nological and  media-related  features.  From  the  very  begin- 
ning, this  "Studio  for  Acoustic  Art,"  as  it  is  called  today,  was 
designed  to  initiate  and  promote  the  new  wave  of  acoustic 
art.  With  its  weekly  90-minute  programs,  it  was  considered 
one  of  the  most  experimentally  oriented  centers  on  the 
international  radio  scene,  a  workshop  for  international  audio 
artists  and  an  open  house  for  artistic  activities  that  tran- 
scended boundaries  of  media  and  language — an  "acustica 
international." 

Since  the  late  sixties,  the  development  of  the  Neue 
Horspiel  has  continued  in  various  interwoven  phases.  The 
initial  phase  was  dominated  by  aspects  of  experimental 
literature,  concrete  poetry,  the  language  play,  sound  poetry, 
quotations  from  the  supply  of  acoustic  readymades,  and  the 
principle  of  collage  applied  to  sound.  The  authors  of  these 
plays — among  them,  Franz  Mon,  Helmut  Heissenbuttel, 
Ernst  Jandl,  Gerhard  Ruhm,  and  Peter  Handke — followed  in 
the  footsteps  of  the  Futurists  and  Dadaists  in  their  overall 
multimedia  conception  and  belief  in  the  equivalence  of  lan- 
guage, sound,  and  noise.  These  radio  plays  paved  the  way 
for  the  next  phase  of  the  Neue  Horspiel  during  the  early 
seventies:  the  incorporation  of  original  sound,  that  is,  lan- 
guage in  the  form  of  quotations  from  written  texts  and 
recordings. 

It  was  only  logical  that  sound  poets,  writers,  and  docu- 
mentarists  enter  into  the  border  areas  of  music.  During  this 
phase,  WDR  invited  composers  to  write  the  music  for  radio 
plays,  which,  in  the  Neue  Horspiel  concept,  made  them 
playwrights.  Among  the  composers  to  follow  this  call  were 


• 


&  I 


Mauricio  Kagel,  Dieter  Schnebel,  Pierre  Henry,  Vinko 
Globokar,  Luc  Ferrari  and — in  the  seventies  and  eighties — 
many  American  composers  from  John  Cage  to  Alvin  Curran. 
This  group  of  composer-playwrights  produced  new  forms  of 
acoustic  art — multimedia  concerts  and  multilanguage 
compositions — that  further  stretched  the  notion  of  the  radio 
play. 

This,  in  a  nutshell,  was  the  landscape  of  acoustic  art  in 
radio  encountered  by  American  sound  artists  in  1978, 
when,  rooted  in  a  rich  tradition  of  their  own,  they  crossed 
the  Atlantic  and  headed  for  Cologne.  Within  ten  years  this 
journey  produced  a  surprising,  unique  surge  of  innovation. 
More  than  twenty  American  artists  produced  for  WDR  more 
than  sixty  works — including  some  winners  of  international 
radio  prizes.  Their  continuing  influence  on  the  acoustic  art 
scene  in  Europe  cannot  be  overestimated. 

At  the  beginning  of  this  fruitful  transatlantic  encounter 
stands  John  Cage,  whose  manifold  creations  opened  new 
perspectives  for  the  arts.  His  1979  WDR  radio  play, 
Roaratorio:  An  Irish  Circus  on  Finnegans  Wake,  combines 
the  most  complex  and  ambiguous  work  of  English  lit- 
erature, James  Joyce's  Finnegans  Wake,  with  his  own 
ideas  about  the  philosophy  of  tone.  Roaratorio  is  an  all- 
encompassing  cosmology  of  an  art  that  transcends  bound- 
aries of  language  while  at  the  same  time  shining  like  a 
daring  prophecy.  Roaratorio  combines  nearly  all  prerequi- 
sites of  acoustic  art,  including  the  equality  of  the  individual 
elements — of  noises,  of  the  voice,  of  singing,  and  of  music — 
all  connected  through  audio  collage. 

Many  other  American  sound  artists  have  crossed  the 
transatlantic  bridge  in  recent  years.  "American  Audio  Art  on 
WDR"  presents  a  selection  of  their  works,  as  well  as  some 
original  scores.  Unlike  traditional  musical  compositions, 
which  employ  a  standard  score,  and  unlike  radio  dramas 
which  have  scripts,  these  scores  are  visualizations  of  the 
audio  originals,  created  for  the  most  part  during  the  produc- 
tion process  itself. 

Some  of  the  audio  pieces  focus  on  the  cultural  bridge 
between  America  and  Germany.  Jackson  Mac  Low's  Dia- 
logue Among  Poets  (1982)  is  a  collage  of  ten  texts  by  Ameri- 
can and  German  poets  as  well  as  a  Tibetan  mantra,  ran- 
domly selected  and  read  by  Mac  Low.  The  Beaver's  Horspiel 
(1984)  is  an  autobiographical,  multilingual  audio  work  by 
ethno-poet  Jerome  Rothenberg.  It  incorporates  hetero- 
geneous, acoustic  worlds,  with  citations  from  Rothenberg's 
sound  poetic  pieces  mixed  with  quotes  from  Dada  texts, 
from  the  Horse  Songs  of  the  Seneca  Indians,  whose  lan- 
guage he  speaks,  and  the  Yiddish  chants  of  his  European 
ancestors.  Pas  de  Voix  (Portrait  of  Samuel  Beckett)  (1986),  by 
California  sound-text  composer  and  radio  music  director 
Charles  Amirkhanian,  is  a  sound  composition  without 
words  in  homage  to  the  playwright,  while  Stephan  von 
Huene's  Schwitters  Extended  (1989)  is  a  random  "transplan- 
tation," as  the  subtitle  calls  it,  of  Kurt  Schwitters'  classical 
letter  poem  "Sonate  in  Urlauten"  (Sonata  in  Elemental 
Sounds)  with  a  Mozart  piano  sonata  played  by  Glenn  Gould. 

The  New  York  Fluxus  artist  Philip  Corner  wrote  Satie's 
Rose  Cross  as  a  Revelation  (1990),  a  meditative  music-text 
composition  in  three  languages,  as  his  homage  to  the 


ji,. 

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wE 
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mufikal 

chOcolat  box 
isaY 

inCabus 

us&d  we 

mammon  lujius 
grAnd 
historioruM 

wrotE  near 
blueSt 

Jcrrybuilding 
tOthe 

Year  year  and  laughtcars 
Confusium 
hold  thEm 

this  carl  on  the  kopje 

pArth  a  lone 
forshapen  his  pigMaid 
hoagshEad 

Shroonk  his  plodsfoot 

•uwjute 
swQp  hats  and  excheck  a  few  strong  verbs 
Yapyazzard  abast 
rnutt    has   has  at   hasatenCy 

i  trumplE  from  rath  in  mine  mines 

Jute 
one  eyegoneblAck 
cross  your  qualM 
havE 

Sylvan 

objects ' 

Olives  beets 
oldwolldY 

Cargon  of 
prohibirivE  pomefructs 


John  Cage,  partial  text  for  Roaratorio:  An  Insh  Circus  on  Finnegans  Wake, 
1979. 


French  composer  Erik  Satie.  An  example  of  the  collaboration 
between  the  American  computer  artist  Larry  Wendt  and 
the  doyen  of  French  sound  poetry,  Henri  Chopin,  is  the 
electronic  sound  composition  Voyage  to  California  (1987). 

Another  spectacular  international  enterprise  was  Bill 
Fontana's  Satellite  Sound  Bridge  Cologne-San  Francisco 
(1987),  consisting  of  two  sound  sculptures,  one  in  Cologne 
and  the  other  in  San  Francisco.  It  was  a  joint  venture  be- 
tween radio  and  two  museums,  the  San  Francisco  Museum 
of  Modern  Art  and  the  Museum  Ludwig  in  Cologne.  A  60- 
minute  radio  sound  bridge,  it  was  aired  live  by  WDR  and 
other  radio  stations  in  Europe  and  in  the  United  States.  In 
this  global  ars  acustica,  radio  becomes  an  experimental 
element  in  new  technological  and  artistic  developments. 

The  rhythm  of  the  United  States,  its  streets  and  its  great 
cities,  is  documented  by  audio  works  such  as  Metropolis 
New  York  (1984),  a  polyphonic  sound  composition  by  Richard 
Kostelanetz,  which  paints  an  acoustic  picture  of  his  pas- 
sionate love  for  this  metropolis  of  metropolises.  Another  city, 
the  city  of  fortune,  is  evoked  in  Metropolis  Las  Vegas  (1987), 
an  acoustical  fata  morgana  by  David  Schein  and  Florian 
Steinbiss. 


-■M. 


Stephan  von  Huene,  drawing  for  Schwitteis  Extended:  A  Transplantation. 
1989.  Graphite  and  printed  paper  on  paper,  WA  X  I6V2  inches.  Collection 
of  Klaus  Schbning. 


More  than  twenty  sound  compositions  have  been  created 
for  the  WDR  series  Metropolis,  primarily  by  American  art- 
ists. The  theme  of  Marjorie  van  Haltereris  Roadtrip  (1989)  is 
the  flight  from  the  big  cities — "on  the  road,"  the  slogan  of 
the  Beat  generation.  A  multilingual  composition  in  original 
sounds  that  the  artist  calls  an  "elegy  for  America,"  it  fea- 
tures the  voices  of  Jack  Kerouac  and  his  daughter,  Janet 
Machel,  with  music  by  John  Coltrane.  Other  radio  plays  also 
refer  directly  or  indirectly  to  the  life  and  work  of  American 
poets,  philosophers,  and  composers.  Something  (to  do)  do- 
ing (1984),  based  on  a  poem  of  the  same  title  by  Sorrel  Hays, 
is  a  dashing  collage  in  scat  form  in  German  and  English 
focused  on  a  quote  from  Gertrude  Stein.  A  homage  to  John 
Cage  and  his  work  of  "purposeful  purposefulness"  and  of 
"silence"  is  David  Tudor's  electro-acoustic  composition  Web: 
For  John  Cage  (1987). 

Alvin  Curraris  profound,  repetitive  word  and  sound  com- 
position For  Julian  (1988),  for  which  he  won  the  WDR 
Acustica  International  award,  is  dedicated  to  the  legendary 
American  theater  director,  producer,  and  actor  Julian  Beck. 
Malcolm  Goldstein  combines  his  vocal  chords  and 
outstanding  violin  playing  with  the  voice  of  the  last  mem- 
ber of  the  Yahi  Indian  tribe,  recorded  in  1912,  in  Ishi/ 
Timechangingspaces  (1988),  which  seems  to  be  coming 
from  another  world  as  it  creates  a  forceful  acoustic  mantra. 
In  his  audio  piece  Voices  (1989),  Charlie  Morrow  mixes  old 
and  new  vocal  music,  trance  chanting  and  religious  songs 
from  various  cultures  to  produce  a  polyphonic,  biographical 
landscape. 

Reflections  on  the  making  of  a  radio  play  within  the 
stringent  structure  of  minimal  music  are  found  in  Signale 
(1985)  by  Tom  Johnson.  Alison  Knowles'  Sean  Sequences 
(1982)  offers  a  compositional  contrast  to  this  piece.  An 
acoustic  Fluxus  art,  it  incorporates  poems,  text  fragments, 
millennial-old  recipes  from  ancient  China,  and  tales  of  the 
Hopi  Indians  about  beans — all  found,  collected,  and  read  in 
two  languages  by  Alison  Knowles,  her  daughters  Hanna 
and  Jessica  Higgins,  and  American  Fluxus  artist  George 


Brecht.  It  is  accompanied  by  a  random  sound  performance 
by  the  four  participants. 

A  bridge  to  Asia  is  built  by  two  other  radio  plays  in  the 
exhibition.  In  Humayuns  Tbmb  (1987),  a  meditation  by  Pau- 
line Oliveros,  poetic  permutations  ("Sound  your  change — 
change  your  sound — change  your  sound  of  mind")  are  sung 
with  musical  accompaniment  by  the  composer.  The  "Hsin 
Hsin  Ming"  by  Seng  Ts'an  (1983)  by  George  Brecht,  who 
lives  in  Cologne,  consists  of  seventy-three  philosophical 
verses  written  by  the  third  patriarch  of  Chinese  Zen  Bud- 
dhism, who  died  in  606  a.d.  They  are  translated  and  cited  in 
three  languages  in  an  attempt  to  come  close  to  the  Chinese 
original:  "One  accordingly  all.  All  accordingly  one." 

American  audio  artists  share  with  their  European  coun- 
terparts ties  to  the  oral  tradition  of  sound  poetry,  the  use  of 
literary  forms  as  a  point  of  departure,  the  equalization  of 
acoustic  elements,  simultaneity,  manifold  perspectives,  and 
the  collage  principle.  But  American  artists  also  made  spe- 
cific contributions  to  international  acoustic  art.  Because 
they  were  adept  in  the  most  disparate  fields — music,  litera- 
ture, theater,  video,  fine  arts,  and  acoustic  art — and  able  to 
combine  fields  in  multimedia  presentations,  they  usually 
also  were  the  performers  of  their  compositions.  Many  of  the 
early  radio  plays  American  artists  created  for  WDR  are 
based  on  the  performance  concept.  Their  performance- 
oriented,  unconventional,  and  in  part  even  improvised 
works  had  a  truly  invigorating  effect  on  the  production 
practices  of  European  studios  and  radio  stations.  They  also 
inspired  the  trend  to  do  live  performances  outside  radio, 
such  as  the  two  current  "Acustica  International"  sound  art 
festivals,  one  in  Cologne,  the  other  in  New  York,  in  1990. 

Among  the  other  characteristics  distinguishing  Ameri- 
can sound  artists  are  their  frequent  direct  references  to 
ethnological  sources  and  their  penchant  for  multilingual 
work,  which  expresses  the  ethnic  diversity  of  the  American 
people.  Another  asset  is  the  American  receptivity  to  envi- 
ronmental sounds — the  everyday  sounds  of  civilization  and 
of  nature — which  paved  the  way  for  sound  sculptures  and 
soundscapes,  an  art  form  heretofore  largely  unknown  in 
Europe.  Although  inspired  by  Zen  and  Fluxus,  Americans 
let  the  two  meet  in  a  more  fortuitous  manner  than  did 
Europeans.  Many  American  audio  works  have,  at  times,  a 
basic  meditative  character. 

A  trend-setting  transcontinental  dialogue  has  been  initi- 
ated, one  that  needs  no  translation,  a  dialogue  that  brings 
into  focus  the  visions  some  artists  had  earlier  in  this 
century — visions  of  what  audio  art  could  be,  what  could 
make  it  audible  and  invite  audiences  to  listen. 

Klaus  Schoning,  Guest  Curator 
Translated  by  Ingeborg  von  Zitzewitz 


Copyright  ©  1990  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  52 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Bill  Gunn  by  Ishmael  Reed 


June  19- July  8,  1990 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  June  26,  at  6:30. 
Ishmael  Reed  will  be  present. 


Schedule 

Ganja  and  Hess,  110  minutes. 

Tuesday,  June  19  at  2:00  and  6:00;  Thursday,  June  21  at  2:00; 
Saturday,  June  23  at  2:00;  Tuesday,  June  26,  at  2:00; 
Thursday,  July  5  at  2:00;  Saturday,  July  7  at  2:00 

Personal  Problems  (Volumes  I  and  II),  total  240  minutes. 
Wednesday,  June  20  at  noon;  Friday,  June  22  at  noon; 
Sunday,  June  24  at  1:00;  Friday,  July  6  at  noon; 
Sunday,  July  8  at  1:00 

Stop,  89  minutes. 

Friday,  June  29  at  3:00;  Saturday,  June  30  at  3:00; 

Sunday,  July  1  at  3:00 


What  are  the  dry  facts?  In  a  bio  sheet  sent  to  me  in  1979,  Bill 
Gunn  referred  to  himself  as  a  writer/director.  His  play 
Marcus  in  the  High  Grass  was  produced  in  1958  at  the 
Theatre  Guild  in  Westport.  His  second,  Johannas,  was  pro- 
duced in  New  York  and  Helsinki.  Black  Picture  Show  was 
produced  at  Lincoln  Center  in  1975  and,  according  to  the 
sheet,  a  play  called  Rhinestone  was  to  be  produced  for 
Broadway  in  1978  and  1979.  His  novels  were  All  the  Rest 
Have  Died,  published  by  Delacorte  Press  in  1964,  and  Rhine- 
stone Sharecropping,  which  Steve  Cannon  and  I  published, 
along  with  his  play  Black  Picture  Show.  In  addition  to  a 
dramatic  version  of  Rhinestone  Sharecropping,  his  play  The 
Forbidden  City  opened  on  the  day  following  his  death.  This 
master  of  irony  would  have  found  this  to  be  the  ultimate 
irony. 

He  wrote  the  screenplays  for  Stop,  The  Landlord,  Angel 
Levine,  Friends,  Fame  Game,  Don't  the  Moon  Look  Lone- 
some, and  The  Greatest:  The  Muhammed  Ali  Story.  His 
teleplays  included  Johanr.as,  Sojourner  Truth,  and  Change 
at  125th  Street. 

It's  an  impressive  career.  But  his  credits  and  his  nu- 
merous awards,  which  include  an  Emmy,  and  the  honor 
accorded  to  Ganja  and  Hess,  one  of  the  most  beautiful  and 
unusual  films  ever  produced  in  the  United  States,  and  to 
Personal  Problems,  an  experimental  soap  opera,  don't  tell  the 
story.  The  heroic  story  of  an  exquisite  writer  maintaining  a 


Linda  Marsh  and  Edward  Bell  m  Stop,  1970.  Photograph  courtesy 
Sam  Waymon. 


quiet  and  elegant  stoicism  while  being  battered  by  the 
crass  forces  of  bottom-line  commercialism  and  racism. 
These  forces  and  institutions  are  the  subjects  of  biting 
comments  in  his  Black  Picture  Show  and  Rhinestone  Share- 
cropping,  where  Bill  Gunn  exposes,  with  the  wit  of  a  Bosch 
or  the  Rembrandt  of  Dutchmasters,  the  pernicious  influ- 
ences which  poison  and  pollute  our  national  imagination. 
The  Hollywood  that  gave  us  Montgomery  Clift  and  James 
Dean,  his  tortured  and  brooding  friends — the  Hollywood 
that  gave  us  great  technicians  like  James  Wong  Howe  and 
Hugh  Robertson — also  gave  us  Birth  of  a  Nation,  The  Color 
Purple,  and  the  sinister  characters,  the  producers  and  image 
makers  who  talk  shop  in  Rhinestone.  Unlike  some  of  the 
young  black  filmmakers  of  today,  who  talk  the  same  way, 
Bill  was  too  risky,  too  moody,  too  much  of  a  genius,  too 
savvy  and  too  clever  for  the  Hollywood  moguls.  They  didn't 
find  him  bankable :  "you  write  something  people  can  under- 
stand. None-a-that  intellectual  junk  that  ain't  worth  a  quar- 
ter, much  less  a  million  dollars,"  Sam  Dodd,  Rhinestone's 
protagonist,  is  warned  by  one  of  the  seamy  Hollywood 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  AT  &  T  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman- Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and 
Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  the  Film  and  Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney  Museum  of 
American  Art,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


merchants  he  encounters  in  the  film  capital,  where  his 
adventures  are  similar  to  those  of  a  Kafkaesque  hero. 

Gunn  used  the  stage  and  the  page  to  rail  against  these 
Movie  Industry  forces,  not  in  the  manner  of  the  diatribe,  but 
in  the  style  of  the  samba  and  the  bossa  nova.  With  subtlety 
and  with  wit.  He  was  too  deft  for  the  obvious.  Too  compli- 
cated. Too  odd.  "...  if  you  expect  to  hold  another  assign- 
ment in  this  business  you  better  learn  to  control  your  tem- 
per," Sam  Dodd  is  advised  by  the  same  character.  Gunn 
revealed  the  depraved  managers  of  the  Dream  Factory,  and 
its  front-office  tokens. 

Pulitzer  Prize  winner  Charles  Gordone  remembers  Bill 
Gunn  as  being  among  those  few  black  actors  to  read  for 
parts  in  New  York  of  the  1950s.  At  the  time,  James  Dean  was 
appearing  in  Andre  Gide's  The  Immoralist,  and  another 
friend,  Sal  Mineo,  was  on  Broadway  as  Yul  Brynner's  son  in 
The  King  and  I.  Gunn  was  one  of  the  first  black  actors  to 
experiment  with  The  Method  and,  as  Charles  Gordone  re- 
calls, he  was  a  good  actor  and  a  sensitive  one.  He  was  slated 
to  be  the  next  major  black  male  star  but  there  was  always 
trouble.  He  got  the  reputation  for  being  difficult,  the  adjec- 
tive they  use  for  the  uppity  black  man.  He  could  kill  with 
eloquence.  He  has  J.D.  say  in  Black  Picture  Show  that  "the 
poem  is  a  sword."  Bill  Gunris  pen  was  his.  He  couldn't  be 
bought.  Throughout  his  work,  Gunn  used  the  image  of 
castration  when  discussing  the  black  male's  position  in 
American  society.  In  Rhinestone  Sharecropping ,  an  athlete 
gets  his  nuts  crushed.  Each  day  the  black  man  is  subjected 
to  symbolic  castration.  They  get  signified  on  and  called  out 
by  their  enemies  in  the  media  and  elsewhere.  If  black  male 
writers  want  to  win  establishment  approval  they'd  better 
write  fictional  and  dramatic  versions  of  tabloid  editorials 
about  the  "underclass,"  a  code  name  for  what  is  considered 
black  male  aberrant  behavior,  in  stay-in-your-place  forms. 
No  experimentation.  No  cryptic  images  like  the  white  man 
in  the  mask  who  recurs  in  Ganja  and  Hess.  The  focus  on  the 
Louis  Armstrong  doll  in  the  production  of  the  Personal  Prob- 
lems' version  shot  by  Bill  Stephens  of  People's  Communica- 
tions. The  clown  who  appears  when  Charles  Brown  and  his 
mistress  are  about  to  make  love.  No  mixing  of  Bach's  Jesus 
Joy  of  Maris  Desiring  with  Bessie  Smith.  No  poetic  dia- 
logues and  monologues  which  on  the  surface  seem  incoher- 
ent. The  black  actor  or  director  who  gets  ahead  in  Holly- 
wood, using  Gunris  imagery,  is  not  in  possession  of  his 
genitals.  The  seat  of  power. 

You  can  tell  what  they  want  from  blacks  by  the  images 
they  reward  and  put  their  dollars  behind.  In  1940,  Holly- 
wood gave  Hattie  McDaniel  an  Oscar  for  her  role  as  a 
Mammy  in  Gone  with  the  Wind.  In  1990,  Morgan  Freeman 
was  nominated  for  his  role  as  a  chauffeur  in  Driving  Miss 
Daisy.  Maybe  ten  years  from  now  another  member  of  Amer- 
ica's permanent  household  staff  will  pick  up  a  little  man,  the 
Oscar  who  comes  alive  and  taunts  a  black  actor  in  Amiri 
Baraka's  brilliant  The  Sidney  Poet  Heroical.  Symbolic  castra- 
tion. The  Color  Purple  sends  out  one  message.  Driving  Miss 
Daisy,  another.  Bill  Gunn  refused  to  submit  his  virile  talent 
to  the  chopping  block.  Refused  to  stay  in  his  place,  and  after 
being  blackballed  from  the  industry  went  out  and  bad- 
mouthed  his  persecutors.   He,   Cecil  Brown,   and  Amiri 


li   *  *  *  A  *   4 

Director  of  Photography  Owen  Roizman  and  Bill  Gunn  (right)  on  location 
in  Puerto  Rico  filming  Stop. 


Baraka  are  the  black  male  poets  of  the  Hollywood  Plantation 
where  there  is  white  money  and  black  money.  "I  will  receive 
thirty  thousand  dollars  and  a  small  percentage.  I  am  not 
flattered  because  the  budget  is  eight  million  and  the  run- 
ning rate  for  white  writers  of  my  caliber,  or  less,  is  at  least 
two  hundred  and  fifty  thousand  or  more,"  Sam  Dodd  says  in 
Rhinestone  Sharecropping.  After  Bill  Gunn  was  fired  from 
working  on  a  film,  a  white  writer  was  brought  in.  Though 
the  finished  product  differed  only  slightly  from  Gunris  ver- 
sion, the  white  writer  got  the  credit. 

In  Hollywood  he  was  a  prince  among  the  philistines.  In 
Rhinestone  Sharecropping,  which  like  Black  Picture  Show 
and  possibly  Ganja  and  Hess  are  semi-autobiographical 
works,  he  voices  his  dissatisfaction  about  his  treatment  over 
two  films.  The  Greatest.  And  Stop,  which  he  felt  was  butch- 
ered by  the  producers.  In  Hollywood  Bill  Gunn  was  vamped. 
"I  notified  my  union  that  I  wished  to  put  the  matter  into 
arbitration.  They  sent  me  a  copy  of  the  new  script  by  the 
new  writer.  Out  of  a  hundred  and  twenty,  there  were  thirty- 
five  pages  that  weren't  mine.  The  rest  were  exactly  as  I 
wrote  them.  I  made  a  legal  objection  to  my  union,  to  not 
being  in  the  credits,  trying  to  keep  my  one  percent,"  says  the 
character  in  Rhinestone  Sharecropping.  No  wonder  the  cen- 
tral image  in  his  classic  Ganja  and  Hess  was  vampirism. 
Gunn  was  a  sharecropper  whose  talent  was  vamped. 

He  was  the  solitary  genius  who  caught  hell  from  both 
whites  and  the  blacks  in  the  industry.  I  remember  taking 
Personal  Problems  to  PBS  in  Washington,  for  possible  show- 
ing on  the  network  and  being  accosted  by  the  sarcastic 
remarks  of  a  black  woman,  the  program  director,  as  we 
viewed  the  tape.  She  referred  to  Gunn  and  the  late  Kathleen 
Collins  Prettyman  as  members  of  what  she  characterized  as 
the  Hudson  River  school  of  cinematography,  because  of  their 
cinematic  style — a  style  that  took  it's  time  to  linger  over  a 
flower,  a  body  of  water,  some  interesting  light,  a  walk 
through  the  woods,  a  camera  that  moseyed  over  elegant 
dinner  scenes,  or  paused  on  a  piece  of  sculpture.  His  be- 
loved Hudson  River  Valley  was  his  location  for  peace.  Where 


Johnnie  Mae  of  Personal  Problems  rendezvouses  with  her 
lover,  Raymon,  stealing  some  moments  from  the  urban 
nightmare  in  which  she  and  her  husband,  Charles  Brown, 
live.  But  the  Hudson  River  Valley  is  the  haunted  grounds  of 
ancient  Dutch  legend.  Of  headless  horsemen,  and  ghostly 
little  men.  It  is  the  scene  of  one  of  what  might  be  the 
country's  most  intellectual  and  sophisticated  horror  film, 
Ganja  and  Hess. 

Personal  Problems,  this  avant-garde  soap  opera,  was 
never  shown  on  PBS,  which  devoted  hours  of  time  to  black 
crack  stories  and  produced  a  maimed  version  of  Richard 
Wright's  Native  Son  and  a  docudrama  which  made  vigilante 
gunman  Bernard  Goetz  a  hero.  Gunn  admired  the  European 
filmmakers,  and  a  critic  described  Personal  Problems  as  a 
soap  opera  as  Godard  would  have  done  it.  But  he  was  not 
the  Europhile  that  his  critics  said  he  was.  Bill  Gunn  was 
eclectic  and  multicultural.  His  black  aristocrats  in  Ganja 
and  Hess  and  Black  Picture  Show  were  those  ignored  in  the 
popular  depiction  of  blacks  by  commercial  whites,  and 
blacks.  Mythical  welfare  queens  and  blacks  who  always 
seem  to  be  poised  for  a  jump  shot.  Blacks  whose  dialogue  is 
limited  to  Hey,  Home.  Nobody  could  do  Gunris  blacks. 
Blacks  who  know  about  old  furniture,  azaleas,  and  who  can 
order  their  wine  in  French.  Blacks  who  seem  to  be  saying 
that  even  after  you  have  the  assets  and  the  class  that  will 
nag  at  you.  At  the  end  of  Martin  Luther  King,  Jr.'s  dream  is 
the  cheerful  hotel  registration  clerk,  and  the  counter  seat  at 
Burger  King.  His  people  wanted  dignity.  Gunris  characters 
already  have  status,  drive  Rolls  Royces  and  sportscars,  and 
though  they  may  be  a  few  months  behind  in  their  Master- 
card payments,  they  will  never  have  to  return  to  the  real 
sharecropping.  Picking  cotton,  or  working  in  a  factory.  When 
they  clean  up  after  whites,  it's  only  metaphorically.  At  the 
end  of  Bill  Gunris  vision  is  ennui.  Hell  is  Eternal  Boredom. 
Alienation.  Notice  how  the  alienated  vampire  anthropolo- 
gist has  to  go  into  the  ghetto  to  get  fresh  blood.  Has  to 
receive  blood  from  bloods.  Has  to  be  recharged.  The  suc- 
cessful Doctor  who  can  only  receive  eternal  peace  through 
communion  with  a  community.  Personal  Problems  brought 
Gunn  to  the  community.  If  Oprah  Winfrey  now  says  that  she 
wants  to  do  a  television  series  depicting  blacks  as  ordinary 
people,  and  not  as  popular  mass-media  stereotypes  of  the 
kind  that  she  presented  in  last  year's  pilot  for  The  Women  of 
Brewster  Place,  then  Personal  Problems  beat  Ms.  Winfrey 
and  the  millions  of  dollars  behind  her  by  a  decade. 

After  completing  this  production,  which  was  shot  be- 
tween 1979  and  1982  Gunn  said,  now  I  know  that  I  can  do 
my  own  movies.  Personal  Problems  was  before  its  time. 
There  was  no  commercial  backing  for  this  eccentric  version 
of  the  soap  opera  which  permitted  black  producers,  a  black 
director,  black  actors,  and  black  writers  and  actresses  to 
have  control  over  their  work.  A  black  composer,  Carman 
Moore,  had  the  freedom  to  write  whatever  music  he  desired 
without  fear  of  censorship.  And  though  it  was  a  black  pro- 
duction, there  were  whites  who  appeared  as  actors  and 
actresses  and  as  members  of  the  crew. 

Bill  Gunn  achieved  complete  freedom  to  direct  Personal 
Problems  and  though  it  was  never  adopted  for  showing  by 
any  network,  Volume  I  premiered  at  the  Centre  Georges 


Pompidou  in  Paris,  November  1980,  and  in  1986  the  com- 
pleted work  was  honored  by  the  Japan  Foundation,  which 
enabled  the  tape  to  be  shown  in  six  southern  cities. 

It  was  at  video  centers  throughout  the  nation  and  was 
enthusiastically  received  by  critics  and  the  public  when  it 
was  picked  up  by  two  local  PBS  affiliates,  KQED  television  in 
San  Francisco  and  WNYC  television  in  New  York  City, 
through  the  efforts  of  Robert  Gore  and  Jane  Muramoto.  This 
soap  opera  about  a  nurse's  aide,  Johnnie  Mae  Brown,  played 
by  Verta  Mae  Grosvenor,  and  her  husband,  Charles  Brown, 
a  New  York  City  transit  worker,  played  by  Walter  Cotton, 
provided  a  new  direction  for  black  artists  on  television  and 
had  widespread  appeal.  Even  white  audiences  in  Kentucky, 
Georgia,  and  Louisiana  were  able  to  identify  with  the  prob- 
lems of  the  people  in  the  film.  I  know  those  people,  an  elderly 
white  woman  said  to  me. 

Bill  Gunn  was  dedicated  to  Personal  Problems  and  like 
most  of  the  participants  worked  within  a  budget  that  was 
based  upon  grants  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the 
Arts  and  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts.  Walter 
Cotton,  who  produced  Personal  Problems  for  Steve  and  me, 
remembers  working  with  Gunn.  "He  was  a  morale  builder 
and  would  reassure  the  crew  and  the  actors  with  his  humor 
when  they  encountered  the  usual  problems  associated  with 
a  small-budget  production.  He  was  easygoing  and  enthusi- 
astic about  his  work.  He  inspired  loyalty." 

Though  he  was  our  friend  and  colleague  he  was  not 
among  us.  He  was  remote,  and  alone  as  is  the  character  in 
his  Gothic  film,  and  his  favorite  photo  seemed  to  be  that  of 
Bill  Gunn  in  boots  and  black  cloak,  like  a  German  baron  in  a 
medieval  castle.  He  hated  telephones.  I  never  really  got  to 
know  him  because  I  was  always  in  a  hurry.  But  I  remember 
the  cool  and  gentle  voice  on  the  telephone  when  I  did  reach 
him.  He  wanted  to  do  another  film  with  us,  but  we  couldn't 
raise  the  money  and  were  denied  funds  by  a  number  of 
grant  panels  composed  of  our  "peers."  Until  his  death  he 
was  controversial,  and  was  even  labeled  a  misogynist  by  a 
newspaper  that  receives  part  of  its  revenue  from  skin  ads, 


Mabel  King  as  Queen  of  Myrthia  in  Ganja  and  Hess,  1973.  Photograph 
courtesy  African  Diaspora  Images,  Brooklyn. 


the  king  of  hypocrites  that  Gunn  would  have  viewed  with 
his  usual  poker  face.  He  never  forgot  that  he  was  a  black 
man  in  a  society  that's  uncomfortable  with  black  men, 
whether  they  appear  in  a  Mapplethorpe  exhibition  or  run  for 
President.  He  was  a  gifted  black  man  who  was  called  para- 
noid, which  means  that  one  has  a  heightened  sense  of 
awareness,  and  evidence  of  that  heightened  sense  is  in  all  of 
his  plays,  films  and  novels.  Somebody  said  that  the  sweet- 
est sounds  come  from  hell  and  that's  where  his  characters 
come  from  and  that's  where  black  men  get  their  experience 
and  pay  their  dues.  Ganja  says,  everybody  is  some  kind  of 
freak.  Everybody  I  know  is  into  something,  and  before  he 
dies  the  vampire's  male  assistant  utters  a  speech  that  could 
have  been  Bill's.  "The  only  perversion  that  can  be  comforta- 
bly condemned  is  the  perversion  of  others.  I  will  persist  and 
survive.  Without  your  society's  sanctions.  I  will  not  be  tor- 
tured. I  will  not  be  punished.  I  will  not  be  guilty." 

If  John  O.  Killens  was  the  soldier  of  darkness,  James 
Baldwin  the  prophet  of  darkness,  then  Bill  Gunn  was  the 
prince  of  darkness.  And  now  that  we  are  undergoing  an 
assessment  of  his  career  with  the  kind  of  attention  that 
eluded  him  during  his  life,  we  are  beginning  to  see  what 
producer  Walter  Cotton  saw  when  working  with  Gunn.  "He 
was  an  original.  He  was  one-of-a-kind." 

Ishmael  Reed 
Guest  Curator 


Works  in  the  Exhibition 

Stop,  1970.  35mm,  color,  sound,  89  minutes. 

Written  and  directed  by  Bill  Gunn.  Producer,  Paul  Heller.  Director  of 
Photography,  Owen  Roizman.  Film  Editor,  Sam  Ornstein.  Music  com- 
posed and  montaged  by  Fred  Myrow.  Consultant  Art  Director,  Gene 
Callahan.  Sound  Recordist,  Paul  Jaeger.  Set  Designer,  Nina.  Fashion  Styl- 
ist, Georganne  Aldrich.  Script  Supervisor,  Felix  Ramirez. 

With:  Linda  Marsh  (Lee),  Edward  Bell  (Michael),  Marlene  Clark  (Mar- 
lene),  Richard  Dow  (Richard),  John  Hoffmeister  (John),  Anna  Mane  Aries 
(Ellen),  Vicky  Hernandez  (The  Whore),  Michael  Peters  (Mr.  Dome),  Miki 
Jaeger  (Mrs.  Dome),  Nydia  Caro  (Girl  in  the  Nightclub),  Angel  Rigau  (The 
Butler),  Benito  Alvarez  (Yacht  Steward),  and  Charlie  Gibbs  (Man  in  the 
Cemetery). 

Ganja  and  Hess,  1973.  35mm,  color,  sound,  110  minutes. 
Written  and  directed  by  Bill  Gunn.  Executive  Producers,  Quentin  Kelly 
and  Jack  Jordan.  Produced  by  Chiz  Schultz.  Music  composed  and  per- 
formed by  Sam  Waymon.  Director  of  Photography,  James  E.  Hinton.  Pro- 
duction Designer,  Tom  John.  Editor,  Victor  Kanefsky.  Music  Director,  Ed 
Bland.  Associate  Producer,  Joan  Shigekawa.  African  instruments  played 
by  Nadi  Qamar.  "March  Blues"  sung  by  Mabel  King.  Costume  Designer, 
Scott  Barrie.  Sound,  Ron  Love.  Lighting  Director,  BUI  Lister.  Make-up, 
Scott  Cunningham  "Bungeln  Work  Song"  used  by  permission  of  Folk- 
ways Records,  Inc.  Distributed  by  African  Diaspora  Images,  Brooklyn, 
and  Third  World  Newsreel,  New  York. 

With:  Duane  Jones  (Dr.  Hess  Green),  Marlene  Clark  (Ganja  Meda),  Bill 
Gunn  (George  Meda),  Sam  Waymon  (Rev.  Luther  Williams),  Leonard  Jack- 
son (Archie),  Candece  Terpley  (Girl  in  Bar),  Richard  Harrow  (Dinner 
Guest),  John  Hoffmeister  (Jack  Sargent),  and  Mabel  King  (Queen  of 
Myrthia). 

Personal  Problems  (Volume  1),  1980.  'A"  videotape,  color,  sound,  120 

minutes 

Directed  by  Bill  Gunn  Produced  by  Walter  Cotton.  Conceived  by  Ishmael 

Reed.  Script  Contributors:  Ishmael  Reed,  Steve  Cannon,  Walter  Cotton, 


Verta  Mae  Grosvenor,  Jim  Wright,  Al  Young,  Bill  Gunn,  and  others.  Direc- 
tor of  Photography,  Robert  Polidon.  Editors :  Bill  Gunn,  Robert  Polidori,  Kip 
Hanrahan,  Niamani  Mutima,  and  Walter  Cotton.  Sound,  Marshall  John- 
son. Music  composed  by  Carman  Moore.  "Down  on  Me,"  "Blue  Lillies,"  and 
"Crazy"  composed  by  Sam  Waymon.  Unit  Production  Manager,  Kip  Han- 
rahan. Distributed  by  The  Kitchen,  New  York. 

With:  Verta  Mae  Grosvenor  (Johnnie  Mae  Brown),  Walter  Cotton  (Charles 
Brown).  Jim  Wright  (Father  Brown),  Sam  Waymon  (Raymon),  Thommie 
Blackwell  (Bubba),  Andrea  W.  Hunt  (Mary  Alice),  Michele  Wallace 
(Sharon),  and  Margo  Williams  (Delia). 

Personal  Problems  (Volume  II),  1981.  %"  videotape,  color,  sound,  120 
minutes. 

Directed  by  Bill  Gunn.  Produced  by  Walter  Cotton.  Conceived  by  Ishmael 
Reed.  Script  Treatment:  Ishmael  Reed  and  Walter  Cotton.  Director  of 
Photography,  Robert  Polidori.  Music  composed  by  Carman  Moore.  Edi- 
tors: Bill  Gunn,  Walter  Cotton,  and  Robert  Polidori.  Lighting,  Thomas 
Frautzen.  Fashion  Coordinator,  Lamarnes  Moses.  Raymon's  piano  solo 
composed  by  Sam  Waymon.  Party  music  by  A.  Faith  Harris.  Distributed 
by  The  Kitchen,  New  York. 

With:  Verta  Mae  Grosvenor  (Johnnie  Mae  Brown),  Jim  Wright  (Father 
Brown),  and  Walter  Cotton  (Charles  Brown). 


Biography 

Bill  Gunn  was  born  in  West  Philadelphia  in  1929.  After  serving  eighteen 
months  in  the  United  States  Navy,  he  moved  to  New  York  to  study  acting 
and  writing  in  the  early  1950s.  As  an  actor,  Gunn  appeared  in  productions 
of  The  Immoralist  (Royale  Theater,  1954)  on  Broadway  and  A  Winter's  Tale 
(New  York  Shakespeare  Festival,  1963);  in  several  episodes  of  the  televi- 
sion series  Route  66  (CBS,  1960-61)  and  The  Fugitive  (ABC,  1963-64); 
and  in  the  films  The  Sound  and  the  Fury  (Martin  Ritt,  1959),  Penelope 
(Arthur  Miller,  1966),  and  his  self-directed  Ganja  and  Hess  (1973),  which 
was  screened  at  the  1973  Cannes  Film  Festival.  In  addition  to  the  screen- 
plays for  Stop  (1970)  and  Ganja  and  Hess,  and  two  novels,  Gunn  wrote  the 
screenplay  for  The  Landlord  (Hal  Ashby,  1970)  and  the  script  for  the  five- 
hour  television  series  The  Alberta  Hunter  Story  1900-1950  (BBC,  1982), 
which  he  also  directed.  He  received  an  Emmy  award  (Special  Individual 
Achievement)  for  writing  Johannas  (NBC,  1972),  two  Audelco  Black  Thea- 
ter Awards  (Best  Play,  Best  Director)  for  Black  Picture  Show  (Vivian 
Beaumont  Theater,  Lincoln  Center,  1975),  and  a  John  Simon  Guggenheim 
Memorial  Foundation  Fellowship  (1980).  Gunn  died  in  Nyack,  New  York  in 
1989.  His  numerous  plays  and  manuscripts  were  willed  to  the  New  York 
Shakespeare  Festival. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Bowser,  Pearl.  "A  Bill  Gunn  Appreciation;  The  Possibilities  That  Might 
Have  Been."  Black  Film  Review,  5  (Spring  1989),  pp.  12,  17. 

Diawara,  Manthia,  and  Phyllis  Klotman.  "Vampires,  Sex  and  Addictions: 
Ganja  and  Hess."  Jump  Cut,  no.  35  (April  1990),  pp.  30-36. 

Gunn,  Bill.  All  the  Rest  Have  Died.  New  York:  Delacorte  Press,  1964; 
London:  Michael  Joseph,  1965. 

.  Rhinestone  Sharecropping.  Berkeley:  I  Reed  Books,  1981. 

Monaco,  James.  "Ganja  and  Hess"  In  American  Film  Now:  The  People,  The 
Power,  The  Money,  The  Movies.  New  York:  Oxford  University  Press, 
1979,  pp.  205-07. 

Wilkerson,  Frank.  "Video  Tape  Soap  Operas."  Black  Collegian,  October- 
November  1980,  pp.  190-92. 

Williams,  John.  "Bill  Gunn:  Portrait  of  the  Artist."  Black  Film  Review,  5 
(Spring  1989),  pp.  11-12. 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  ©  1990  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  53 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


a  j— .: ~~ 


■i-^.'u.^-^  n     T\T^- 


11     1 


Out  of  the  Corner,  1990. 

Video  installation.  On  view  continuously. 


Gallery  talk,  Friday,  October  26,  at  4:00 
Adrian  Piper  will  be  present. 


Components 

17  video  monitors;  17  videotape  playback  decks;  17  3A"  videotapes, 
color,  sound,  26  minutes.  64  black-and-white  photographs,  14  x  11 
inches  each  with  frames.  Table,  16  chairs,  pedestals,  and  specified 
lighting. 

Videotape  credits 

Performers:  Steve  Ausbury,  Martha  Baer,  Gregg  Bordowitz,  Cee 
Brown,  Jessica  Chalmers,  Lenora  Champagne,  Erin  Cramer,  An- 
drea Fraser,  Alexander  Gray,  John  Kelly,  Lawrence  Miller,  Adrian 
Piper,  Beatrice  Roth,  Vivian  Selbo.  Marianne  Weems,  John  Wessel, 
and  Philip  Yenawme.  Music:  "We  Are  Family"  by  Sister  Sledge, 
©  Cotillion  Records,  1979.  Editing:  Dieter  Froese ;  post-production: 
Dekart  Video;  audio  editing:  Karl  Kalbaugh/Soundwave.  Transla- 
tions: Berlitz  Translation  Services,  Josephine  Withers,  Hilton  Als. 
This  project  was  partially  funded  by  a  1989-90  John  Simon  Gug- 
genheim Memorial  Fellowship.  Special  thanks  to  Kay  Hines  and 
Dieter  Froese. 

Out  of  the  Corner  is  courtesy  of  the  John  Weber  Gallery,  New  York. 


Out  of  the  Corner,  1990. 


Since  the  late  1960s,  Adrian  Piper  has  been  producing 
rigorous  and  intelligent  work  as  a  Conceptual,  Perfor- 
mance, and  visual  artist.  Her  position  is  unique  in  that  she 
is  also  a  professor  of  philosophy;  as  such,  she  brings 
clarity  and  depth  of  thought  to  her  art  work.  Piper's  latest 
installation,  Out  of  the  Corner  (1990),  is  a  powerful  epis- 
temological  reflection  on  the  social  construction  of  racial 
identity  within  Western  society.  The  questions  she  poses 
regarding  self- depict  ion  and  the  reception  of  the  Other  are 
leading  the  debates  surrounding  multicultural  represen- 
tation in  contemporary  art  practice,  institutional  exhibi- 
tion policies,  and  the  writing  of  art  history. 

Artists  have  employed  video  in  various  ways  to  explore 
the  nature  of  the  portrait  by  exposing  the  myth  of  authen- 
ticity which  underlies  the  film,  photographic,  and  video 
image.  The  notion  that  the  camera  "does  not  lie,"  that  it 
reveals  the  true  identity  of  its  subject  by  virtue  of  its 
capacity  to  produce  a  representational  image,  is  a  fallacy. 
The  photograph,  particularly  as  it  is  used  in  passports, 
identification  cards,  and  driver's  licenses,  represents  the 
subject  as  a  quantifiable  unit  whose  social  and  cultural 
identity  is  determined  further  through  labeling  (height, 
weight,  race,  national  origin,  etc.).  Its  presumed  objec- 
tivity is  radically  questioned  in  such  videotapes  as  Mar- 
tha Rosler's  Vital  Statistics  of  a  Citizen  (Simply  Obtained) 


(1977),  Stuart  Marshall's  Bright  Eyes  (1986),  and  in  the 
more  recent  work  of  Adrian  Piper.  In  a  variety  of  projects, 
Piper  confronts  our  expectations  of  race  through  the  evi- 
dence of  the  image.  These  include  My  Calling  (Card)  #1:  A 
Reactive  Guerrilla  Performance  for  Dinners  and  Cocktail 
Parties  (1986),  Cornered  (1988),  and  Merge  (1989).  Within 
Piper's  projects  the  acknowledgment  of  the  self  of  artist 
and  viewer  becomes  a  complex  and  engaging  meta- 
discourse  that  exposes  the  processes  of  image  and  iden- 
tity construction  within  the  text  of  the  work.  In  con- 
fronting these  issues,  Piper  has  made  an  important  ad- 
vance in  creating  art  relevant  to  contemporary  issues  and 
as  a  means  to  further  our  understanding  of  ourselves 
and  others. 

In  Cornered  (1988),  a  large  video  monitor  is  placed  be- 
hind an  overturned  table,  which  leans  against  it.  It  is 
flanked  by  two  birth  certificates,  one  identifying  Piper's 
father  as  white,  the  other  as  black.  Piper  appears  on  the 
monitor  and  directly  addresses  the  viewer  in  a  soft- 
spoken,  yet  direct,  manner  that  conforms  to  her  self- 
described  "bourgie,  junior  miss  style."  The  overturned 
table,  with  its  aggressive  implications,  and  the  placement 
of  the  birth  certificates  on  the  wall  frame  her  explosive 
text,  which  subtly  presents  an  argument  that  breaks 
through  the  polite  veneer  of  social  conventions.  "I'm 


TheNewAmenc  -J  Video  Series  is  made  pos:  by  grants  fr 

MacArthur  Four 


Black.  Now,  let's  deal  with  this  social  fact,  and  the  fact  of 
my  stating  it,  together.  Maybe  you  don't  see  why  we  have 
to  deal  with  it  together.  Maybe  you  think  it's  just  my 
problem,  and  that  I  should  deal  with  it  myself.  But  it's  not 
just  my  problem.  It's  our  problem."  Piper's  monologue 
skillfully  exposes  the  racial  presumptions  underlying 
public  behavior  and  the  politics  of  self-representation.  She 
informs  "white"  viewers  that  they  are  in  all  likelihood 
black  according  to  conventions  of  racial  classification  and 
genetic  statistics. 

Cornered  is  a  metaphor  for  the  idea  of  "being 
cornered" — forcing  our  engagement  in  issues  we'd  often 
prefer  to  ignore.  This  earlier  work  is  at  the  conceptual 
center  of  her  newest  installation,  Out  of  the  Corner,  and 
sets  the  stage  for  its  reception. 

Entering  the  gallery  you  see  sixteen  monitors  placed 
about  the  space  in  "battle  formation"  around  the  larger 
monitor  and  table  used  in  Cornered.  All  the  monitors  are 
oriented  to  face  the  viewer.  Each  sits  atop  a  pedestal;  a 
chair  is  upturned  and  placed  in  front  of  it,  suggesting  the 
stance  of  a  liontamer  keeping  an  aggressive  animal  at  bay. 
Initially,  we  hear  Piper's  monologue  from  Cornered.  Half- 
way through,  each  of  the  sixteen  monitors  is  activated  in 
rapid  succession,  creating  a  burst  of  visual  imagery, 
which  is  then  repeated  with  sound.  Each  of  the  tapes  has 
a  white  male  or  female  from  a  different  Western  country 
speaking  the  following  text  in  English:  "Some  of  my  fe- 
male ancestors  were  so-called  'house  niggers'  who  were 
raped  by  their  white  slavemasters.  If  you're  an  American, 
some  of  yours  probably  were,  too."  Across  each  monitor 
run  subtitles  in  a  different  foreign  language.  At  regular 
intervals  we  hear  the  pop  song  "We  Are  Family"  by  Sister 
Sledge.  On  the  walls  are  framed  black-and-white  portrait 
photographs  of  black  women  from  different  walks  of  life, 
shot  from  the  pages  of  Ebony  magazine.  Viewers  seated 
before  the  monitors  or  walking  about  the  gallery  can  en- 
gage each  statement  through  the  modulation  of  written 
languages  and  individuals  speaking. 

Adrian  Piper  has  created  a  distinguished  project  that 
has  developed  out  of  her  earlier  performance  and  media 
work  and  confronted  with  precision  and  powerful  emo- 
tions issues  which  are  at  the  heart  of  our  culture  and 
society  today.  She  has  used  the  formal  dimensions  of  Con- 
ceptual Art  as  a  means  to  offer  a  deconstructive  engage- 
ment of  the  languages  and  images  of  representation  by 
placing  herself  and  her  viewers  at  the  center  of  the  experi- 
ence. The  result  is  an  artwork  that  does  not  isolate  aes- 
thetics and  theory  from  the  everyday  but  enjoins  our 
communities  to  speak  and  communicate  within  an  ethic 
of  social  (self-)understanding. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Awards  in  the  Visual  Arts  (1990)    Piper  has  taught  philosophy  at  the 
University  of  Michigan  (1979-82,  1985-86),  Stanford  University  (1982- 
84),  Georgetown  University  (1986-88).  the  University  of  California,  San 
Diego  (1988-90),  and  is  currently  professor  of  philosophy  at  Wellesley 
College. 

Selected  One-Artist  Exhibitions 

0  to  9  Press.  New  York,  "Three  Untitled  [Postal]  Projects,"  1969;  New 
York  Cultural  Center,  "One  Man  (sic),  One  Work,"  1971;  Wadsworth 
Atheneum,  Hartford,  "Matrix  56:  Adrian  Piper,"  1980;  Real  Art  Ways. 
Hartford,  1980;  The  Alternative  Museum,  New  York,  "Adrian  Piper: 
Reflections  1967-1987,"  1987  (traveling);  John  Weber  Gallery,  New 
York,  1989,  1990;  Matrix  Gallery.  University  Art  Museum.  University  of 
California,  Berkeley.  1989,  Williams  College  Art  Museum, 
Wilhamstown,  Massachusetts.  1990;  Exit  Art,  New  York.  1990 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Dwan  Gallery,  New  York,  "Language  III,"  1969;  Stadtisches  Museum, 
Leverkusen,  West  Germany,  "Concept  Art,"  1969,  Kunsthalle  Berne, 
Switzerland,  "Plans  and  Projects  as  Art,"  1969,  The  Museum  of 
Modern  Art,  New  York,  "Information,"  1970;  Musee  dArt  Moderne  de  la 
Ville  de  Pans,  "7e  Biennale  de  Pans,"  1971;  Museum  moderner  Kunst, 
Vienna,  "Kunst  mit  Eigen-Sinn,"  1985,  The  Museum  of  Modern  Art, 
New  York,  "Committed  to  Print,"  1988  (traveled),  Cleveland  Center  for 
Contemporary  Art,  "The  Turning  Point:  Art  and  Politics  in  1968,"  1988 
(traveled);  The  Maryland  Institute,  College  of  Art,  Baltimore,  "Art  as  a 
Verb:  The  Evolving  Continuum,"  1988  (traveled);  Musee  dArt  Moderne 
de  la  Ville  de  Pans,  "L'art  conceptuel,  une  perspective,"  1989  (traveling) 

Videography 

All  works  are  single-channel,  J/V  videotapes,  color,  and  sound,  unless 

otherwise  noted. 
Some  Reflective  Surfaces,  shot  in  16mm  film,  1975;  edited  in  W  video, 

1987.  20  minutes. 
Funk  Lessons,  1984   18  minutes. 

Funk  Lessons  A  Metaperformance.  1987  44  minutes. 
My  Calling  (Cards)  #\  and  #2   A  Metaperformance,  1987   120  minutes 
The  Big  Four-Oh,  1988  Video  installation:  video  monitor,  videotape 

playback  deck;  videotape,  45  minutes;  table,  40  hardballs;  sealed 

jars  containing  urine  and  vinegar,  and  handkerchiefs  soaked  in 

blood,  sweat,  and  tears,  a  suit  of  armor;  a  journal,  and  specified 

lighting. 
Cornered,  1988.  Video  installation:  video  monitor;  videotape  playback 

deck;  videotape,  17  minutes,  table;  two  framed  birth  certificates; 

10  viewer  chairs,  and  specified  lighting. 
My  Calling  (Cards)  #1  and  #2:  Metaperformance  II,  1988  120  minutes. 
My  Calling  (Card)  #1:  A  Double  Metaperformance,  1989   58  minutes. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Adrian  Piper:  Reflections  1967-87  (exhibition  catalogue)  Essays  by 
Jane  Farver  and  Clive  Phillpot.  New  York:  The  Alternative  Museum, 
1987   2nd  ed.  Essays  by  Jane  Farver,  John  Paoletti,  and  Lowery 
Stokes  Sims.  New  York:  The  John  Weber  Gallery,  1989 

Johnson,  Ken   "Being  and  Politics "  Art  in  America,  78  (September 
1990),  cover,  pp.  154-61 

Mayer,  Rosemary  "Performance  and  Experience"  Arts  Magazine,  47 
(December  1972-January  1973),  pp.  33-36. 

Menaker,  Deborah  Artworks:  Adrian  Piper  (exhibition  brochure) 
Wilhamstown,  Massachusetts    Williams  College  Museum  of  Art, 
1990 

Piper,  Adrian.  "A  Paradox  of  Conscience:  A  New  Perspective  on  Art 
World  Ethics."  New  Art  Examiner,  16  (April  1989),  pp.  27-31. 

— .  "Xenophobia  and  the  Indexical  Present."  In  Re  Imagining 
America:  The  Arts  of  Social  Change  Eds  Mark  O'Brien  and  Craig 
Little  Philadelphia:  New  Society  Publishers,  1990,  pp  285-95. 


Biography 

Adrian  Piper  was  born  in  New  York  City  in  1948  She  studied  at  the 
School  of  Visual  Arts,  New  York  (A  A.,  1969),  City  College  of  New  York 
(B.A.,  1974),  Harvard  University  (M.A.,  1977;  Ph.D.,  1981),  and  the 
University  of  Heidelberg  (1977-78)  She  has  received  grants  and 
fellowships  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  (1979,  1982, 
1987),  Art  Matters,  Inc.  (1987),  John  Simon  Guggenheim  Memorial 
Foundation  (1989),  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts  (1989),  and 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Av" 

Houi  00 

Film  and  video  information: 


Copyright  ©  1990  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  54 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


NON%  *  @#&? !  SENSE 


Noverr 


±±*j\Zs±.    x  /        iyuu\>xj.ujoi    v/i    iv/' 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  November  27,  at  4:00. 
John  G.  Hanhardt  and  Allen  S.  Weiss,  co-curators, 
will  be  present. 


I 


3 


This  exhibition  is  organized  in  conjunction  with  the  publication  of 
Art  &  Text,  no.  37  (September  1990),  which  includes  papers  originally 
presented  at  the  symposium  Nonsense:  Culture  Through  the  Looking 
Glass,  held  November  11,  12,  and  13,  1989,  at  the  Whitney  Museum 
of  American  Art.  The  symposium  was  organized  by  David  B. 
Allison,  John  G.  Hanhardt,  Mark  Roberts,  and  Allen  S.  Weiss.  The 
Art  &  Text  issue  is  available  at  the  Museum  sales  desk. 


Is  nonsense  like  a  weed,  simply  something  unwanted, 
something  that  shouldn't  be  there?  Imagine,  music  lovers, 
the  hellish  job  of  working  in  a  recording  studio  listening  to 
master  pressings  for  imperfections.  Not  to  hear  the  music, 
but  the  noise.  But  how  do  we  check  recordings  of  musique 
concrete  or  of  John  Cage?  How  can  we  respond  to  a  com- 
poser who  would  welcome  errors  in  the  recording  process 
(as  opposed  to  Glenn  Gould's  radical  perfectionism)?  When 
we  listen,  especially  when  we  listen  carefully,  we  cannot 
seem  to  stop  making  sense:  our  discourse  is  epis- 
temotropic.  Can  our  aesthetic  activism  (or  abandon)  ever 
truly  reach  toward  an  infinite  variety  of  silences,  or  an 
equally  infinite  variety  of  noises,  occasionally  of  deliria? 

Nonsense:  silliness,  senselessness,  irrationality,  absur- 
dity, craziness,  madness,  lunacy,  insanity,  folly,  poppycock, 
balderdash,  fiddle-faddle,  babble,  drivel,  dribble,  slaver, 
twaddle,  t wattle,  blather,  gabble,  blabber,  gibber,  jabber, 
patter .  .  .  blah-blah.  Horsefeathers,  even.  These  very  words 
designate  meaningless  differences  of  signification,  discrete 
nuances  available  only  to  the  very  tone  of  individual  emo- 
tional response  or  rhetorical  effect.  Listen  to  their  sounds : 
what  do  they  mean  to  you !  ?  Nonsense  cannot  be  defined ;  it 
is  that  which  is  antithetical  to  every  lexical  entry,  to  every 
logical  operation,  to  every  linguistic  structure.  The  difficulty 
is  that  while  nonsense  is  always  historically  contextualized, 
it  is  usually  veiled  behind  the  machinations  of  meaning.  The 
stasis,  the  static,  of  logic  confines  access  to  nonsense  be- 
hind the  veneer  of  presence.  Nonsense  traverses  history  at 
its  interstices,  at  those  articulations  of  speech,  gesture,  act, 
and  event  which  equally  escape  both  the  transcendental 
logic  of  metaphysics  and  the  quotidian  (though  often  hardly 
cunning)  dialectic  of  history.  The  slightest  typo,  lapsus, 
deviation,  or  deformity  is  enough  to  produce  it. 

We  might  begin  with  an  allegory:  John  Cage's  Imaginary 
Landscape  #4  (1951).  This  piece  for  twelve  radios — a  do-it- 


yourself  composition  determined  by  chance  operations  of 
the  I  Ching — demands  two  operators  per  radio,  controlling 
changes  of  amplitude  from  ppppp  to  sfffffz,  of  frequency 
settings  spanning  the  dial,  and  of  duration.  It  was  first 
performed  in  1951  at  the  McMillan  Theater  at  Columbia 
University,  "conducted"  by  Cage  himself.  But  due  to  awk- 
ward scheduling,  it  didn't  begin  until  11:30  pm,  an  hour  at 
which,  in  that  epoch,  there  was  practically  nothing  on  the 
radio.  The  result  seemed  to  some  an  unfortunate  mix  of 
static  and  silence,  yet  others  recognized  it  as  the  most 
fortunate  serendipity.  What  was  to  have  been  something  of 
a  "live"  radiophonic  forerunner  of  William  s  Mix  (a  collage  of 
live  recordings  of  city  and  country  sounds,  conventional 
music  and  electronically  produced  sounds)  was  practically 
transformed  into  an  extended  precedent  of  4' 33"  (four  min- 
utes and  thirty- three  seconds  of  silence,  scored  "for  undeter- 
mined forces") — both,  not  coincidentally,  composed  and 
first  performed  the  following  year. 

One  limit  of  nonsense,  noise,  gives  way  to  another,  silence. 
According  to  Cage,  silence  is  indeterminate  noise.  We  might 
presume  that  Cage  was  inspired  to  silence,  to  the  many 
possible  silences,  by  this  error  of  timing.  In  any  case,  the 
desire  to  include  the  pure  contingency  of  the  world — the 
"real"  world,  the  recorded  world,  the  radiophonically  repre- 
sented world — in  music  was  met  with  an  emblematic  fail- 
ure. The  scheduling  error  has  informed  the  creative  thought 
of  a  generation.  Sometimes  the  world  which  we  anticipate 
or  desire  is  missing;  sometimes  what  we  need  to  define  our 
imagination — in  this  case,  a  montage  of  radiophonic 
excerpts — escapes  us.  What  remains — failures,  detritus, 
trash — is  a  sign  of  what  awaits  us  as  our  destiny.  In  Freud- 
ian metapsychology  and  Surrealist  ontology,  dreams  reor- 
ganize the  day's  "residues"  into  a  unified,  if  incoherent, 
spectacle;  William  Burroughs  suggests  that  "the  past  is 
refuse,  precisely  directed."  We  add:  the  future  of  our  words 
is  silence ;  the  future  of  our  images  is  chaos ;  the  future  of  our 
bodies  is  corruption.  A  return  to  detritus.  Death  is  the  ulti- 
mate limit  of  sense,  the  final  nonsense.  We  always  knew  this 
from  ethics,  theology,  and  metaphysics;  we  now  affirm  it 
through  aesthetics  and  linguistics.  Whence  the  appropriate- 
ness of  the  terms  used  to  designate  that  radiophonic  noise 
which  is  no  different  from  radiophonic  silence :  dead  time,  or 
dead  air.  Should  we  heed  the  May  '68  graffiti  slogan  "live 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kauf 
Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  the  Film  and  Video  Fellow: 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


ufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  AT  &  T  Foundation, 
1a  Studios.  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and 
(American  Art,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 


i  i<;miji 


V  I 

Peggy  and  Fred  in  Hell,  the  Prologue  (1985),  Leslie  Thornton. 


without  dead  time ! ,"  or  rather  delight  in  Cage's  discovery  of 
the  revelatory  aspects  of  silence? 

Is  nonsense  simply  meaninglessness,  or  does  it  instill  our 
discourse  with  the  power  of  refusal?  Is  there  a  more  basic 
scream  than  that  of  Beth  Anderson's  J  Can't  Stand  It,  or  is 
this  just  one  more  Dadaist  provocation,  one  more  ploy  to 
attract  our  attention  or  provoke  our  disapproval?  Does 
Gregory  Whitehead's  Eva,  can  I  stab  bats  in  a  cave?  ask  a 
true  question  (evoking  a  surreal  scene  or  a  demonic  night- 
mare), or  does  it  simply  invoke  its  own  palindromic,  nearly 
solipsistic  logic?  Does  Whitehead's  Oral  or  Anal?  pose  a 
question  about  sexuality,  about  the  eroticism  of  a  normal 
body  with  organs?  Is  it  an  exclusive  or  inclusive  disjunction, 
imposing  a  sexual  injunction?  Or  does  it  rather  bespeak  the 
manifest  impossibility  (but  distinct,  if  perverse,  radiophonic 
possibility)  of  organs  without  a  body? 

Often  uncanny,  sometimes  sublime,  the  nonsensical  is  a 
pressure  against  the  rational,  a  threat  against  reasonable- 
ness. In  its  very  ephemerality,  in  its  nearly  systematic 
suppression  or  dissociation  from  quotidian  discourse,  it  re- 
sounds in  a  tautological  realm,  leaving  the  merest  trace  on  a 
history  determined  by  rationality  and  power.  Let  us  suggest 
merely  one  of  many  possible  circuits  of  such  closure.  Non- 
sense is  often  assimilated  to  pure  chance,  to  contingency; 
contingency  explained  as  destiny;  destiny  attributed  to 
divine  intervention  (deus  ex  machina) ;  divinity  demonized 
as  God;  God  systematized  in  paranoia;  paranoid  systems 
denounced  as  nonsense.  For  example,  this  morbid  fascina- 


tion is  epitomized  by  Harry  Smith's  No.  12  (Heaven  and 
Earth  Magic  Feature),  with  its  paranoid  and  schizoid  disar- 
ticulations of  voice,  body,  and  narrative,  and  its  irrecuper- 
able  anti-narrative  effects — dead  ends.  It  is  perhaps  no 
accident  that  the  Surrealist  game  which  inspired  this  film 
was  called  the  "Exquisite  Corpse."  Exquisite  in  its  aesthetic 
effects,  morbid  in  its  corporeal  violence. 

These  nonsensical  effects  pervade  modernism,  in  all  its 
manifestations:  the  theatrics  of  Dada  performance;  the 
dream  imagery  of  Surrealism;  catatonic  stupor  (consider 
Arnulf  Rainer's  notion  of  Katatonenkunst,  an  extreme  limit 
of  Performance  Art);  apocalyptic  ranting;  the  common- 
places of  daily  news  items;  the  jargon  of  academic  and 
political  discourse;  contradictions  in  the  historical 
dialectic — it  is  also  what  Alice  discovers  in  her  Victorian 
Wonderland,  as  well  as  what  we  critique  in  contemporary 
postmodern  simulacra.  Dead  letters. 

This  program  is  an  experiment,  a  user's  manual,  a  tool  for 
establishing  an  archaeology — not  a  typology  or  historical 
survey — of  nonsense.  Nonsense  might  not  mean,  but  it  can 
be  used.  It  is  a  transformative  axis  of  what  makes  sense.  We 
might  utilize  it  as  a  testing  mechanism  to  fathom  the  limits, 
powers,  and  structures  of  discourse.  Presented  here  are 
several  programs  of  film,  video,  audio,  and  live  performance 
bearing  on  varied  manifestations  of  nonsense:  surrealizing 
tendencies,  structural  experiments,  instructional  pastiche, 
representational  violence,  collage  and  montage  effects,  lin- 
guistic investigations.  One  principal  disjunction  guiding 


our  experiment,  separating  major  tendencies  of  early  and 
late  modernism,  is  that  between  stream-of-consciousness 
(dream-logic,  depth  psychology,  libidinal  primary  processes, 
fantasy,  interiorization)  and  stream-of-life  (aleatory  con- 
structs, the  concrete,  montage,  cut-up,  structuralization,  ex- 
teriorization). The  locus  of  nonsense  reveals  the  limits  and 
forms  of  rationality — if  not  of  the  imaginary. 

What  if,  for  example,  we  took  our  program  of  "instruc- 
tional" pieces  seriously?  Peter  Rose  and  Jessie  Jane  Lewis' 
The  Pressures  of  the  Text  discredits  the  rhetorical  and  poetic 
poverty  of  our  scholarly  discourses  and  offers  a  way  out — 
into  the  realm  of  glossolalia  and  glossographia;  George 
Landow's  Remedial  Reading  Comprehension  reveals  the 
antinomies  of  statistical  reasoning  and  the  ambiguities 
of  spectatorial  identification;  Robert  Nelson's  Bleu  Shut 
("bullshit,"  another  synonym  for  nonsense)  demonstrates — 
against  our  "better  judgment" — the  arbitrary  relation  be- 
tween signifier  and  signified  by  continually  frustrating  our 
choices  in  its  game-show  exercise.  Through  these  varied 
works  we  slowly  discover  that  for  every  possible  enuncia- 
tion a  nonsensical  variant  or  irritant  may  be  created.  Indeed, 
what  experimental  art  work  isn't  somehow  instructional, 
critical,  or  theoretical?  Nonsense  is  that  moment  in  which  a 
text  or  system  unfolds  to  reveal  its  internal  contradictions, 
establishing  the  inner  negation  of  deep  structures  that  re- 
sides as  a  possible  future  of  all  speech,  as  a  moment  of 
cultural  critique. 

So  Imaginary  Landscape  #4  presents  just  one  paradigm; 
any  work  in  the  present  program — indeed  any  work  at  all — 
could  be  used  to  establish  a  different  one.  Yet,  in  desiring  to 
set  a  cognitive  paradigm,  we  begin  to  realize  that  nonsense 
can  appear  anywhere,  at  any  time — especially  within  arbi- 
trary categorization.  At  any  discursive  juncture,  any  gram- 
matical inflexion,  any  lexical  nuance,  any  gestural  moment. 
Tautologically,  might  we  name  "nonsense"  simply  the  zero- 
degree-  or  lowest-common-denominator  of  sense,  to  be  es- 
tablished at  every  level  of  the  art  work?  In  photography,  for 
example,  the  elementary  level  is  that  of  the  very  grain  of  the 
image  itself:  Paul  Sharits  suggests  that  emulsion  grains 
are  essentially  "concepts"  (no  nonsense) ;  Hollis  Frampton 
would  call  them  "circles  of  confusion"  (foundationally  non- 
sense). In  experimental  cinema — which  often  foregrounds 
the  primary,  lirninal  aspects  of  cinematic  specificity — the 
fundamentally  meaningful  narratives  of  mainstream  cin- 
ema are  deconstructed.  Consider  limit  works,  which  focus 
on  the  materiality  of  the  filmic  signifier,  such  as  Tony 
Conrad's  The  Flicker  or  Peter  Kubelka's  Arnulf  Rainer,  both 
composed  uniquely  of  black-and-white  leader.  These  films 
present  not  images  without  codes  (as  Roland  Barthes 
claimed  the  photographic  image  to  be),  but  codes  without 
images.  Something  from  almost  nothing.  Or  reflect  upon 
an  even  more  primal  cinematographic  event,  what  Hollis 
Frampton  considers  to  be  the  only  unique  film,  and  what  we 
see  to  be  the  most  universal  cinematic  possibility:  passing 
nothing  through  a  running  projector. 

What  is  the  use  of  all  this?  To  ask  for  a  use  value  is  already 
to  belie  the  exigencies  of  nonsense.  William  Burroughs  sug- 
gested that  the  cut-up  will  reveal  the  political  essence  of  a 
text  more  easily  than  conventional  analysis  since,  once  cut 


up  and  scanned,  the  work's  inner  ideological  structure  be- 
comes more  visible.  Here,  the  politics  and  poetics  of  commu- 
nication merge,  as  they  do  in  the  contemporaneous  works  of 
Lettrist  anti-art,  Situationist  detournement,  Fluxus  experi- 
mentation, and  the  current  theorization  and  critique  of  me- 
dia simulacra.  In  such  works,  communication  contains  its 
own  critique,  and  the  spectacle  contains  its  own  refusal. 
Despite  appearances,  we  cannot  bear  to  stop  making  sense. 
Are  we  to  make  of  nonsense  nothing  but  a  semiotic  symp- 
tomatology of  representation  and  thus  recuperate  it  within 
our  rationality? 

There  are,  indeed,  other  more  aesthetic  uses  which  by- 
pass reason  by  directly  affecting  the  body.  We  might  re- 
member that  Bach's  Goldberg  Variations  were  written  for 
Baron  von  Kayserling  as  a  soporific,  to  assuage  the  melan- 
cholia that  caused  his  sleepless  nights.  How  different  is  Paul 
Sharit's  T,0,U,C,H,I,N,G  (made  in  the  fateful  year  of  1968), 
his  last  mandala  film,  intended  as  an  aesthetic  calmative  for 
the  historical  excitations  and  malaise  that  beset  the  USA  in 
the  1960s?  Or  Charles  Amirkhaniaris  Andas  (the  Swedish 
word  for  "breathing"),  which  begins  with  a  yoga  breathing 
exercise  to  aid  in  sleeping  that  is  soon  transformed  into 
snores,  a  lion's  roar,  electronic  "suspenseful"  tones,  dis- 
torted and  disarticulated  words  in  an  unrecognizable  lan- 
guage, and  finally  nonsense  chants?  Andas  might  suggest 
one  more  allegory:  here  begins  the  sleep  of  reason  that 
produces  monsters,  nightmares,  or  simply  dreams — per- 
haps those  evoked  in  Amirkhaniaris  own  Dreams  Freud 
Dreamed.  It  is  here  that  the  archaeology  of  nonsense  may 
begin — in  the  dreams  and  nightmares,  pleasures  and 
pains,  wonders  and  anxieties  that  it  induces. 

Allen  S.  Weiss,  Guest  Curator 


The  Third  Reich  'n  Roll  (1976),  The  Residents. 


SCHEDULE 

Unless  otherwise  noted,  all  films  are  16mm,  black-and-white,  and 
sound;  all  videotapes  are  3A",  color,  and  sound;  all  audio  pieces  are  in 
stereo  and  played  on  digital  audiotape ;  all  performances  are  approx- 
imately 60  minutes  in  length. 

Saturday,  November  17  at  2:00 

Joseph  Cornell,  Rose  Hobart  (1939).  35mm  film,  tinted,  19%  minutes. 
Bruce  Conner,  A  Movie  (1958).  Film,  12  minutes. 
Bruce  Conner,  America  Is  Waiting  (1981).  Film,  3Vz  minutes. 
Hans  Breder,  My  TV  Dictionary :  The  Drill  (1986).  Videotape, 

3  minutes. 

Nam  June  Paik  and  Jud  Yalkut,  Videotape  Study  #3  (1967-69). 
Videotape  (originally  shot  in  16mm  film),  black-and-white, 

5  minutes. 

Charles  Amirkhanian,  History  of  Collage  (1981).  Audiotape, 

4  minutes. 

John  Cage,  William's  Mix  (1952).  Audiotape,  4  minutes.  Courtesy 

C.E  Peters  Corporation. 
John  Cage,  62  Mesostics  Re  Merce  Cunningham  (1971).  Audiotape, 

6  minutes. 

William  Burroughs,  We  See  the  Future  Through  the  Binoculars  of 
the  People  (c.  1978).  Audiotape,  10  minutes.  Courtesy  James 
Grauerholz,  William  Burroughs  Communications. 

Tuesday,  November  20  at  2:00 

Maya  Deren,  Meshes  of  the  Afternoon  (1943).  35mm  film,  14  minutes. 
Sidney  Peterson,  The  Lead  Shoes  (1949).  Film,  color,  I6V2  minutes. 
Harry  Smith,  No.  12  (Heaven  and  Earth  Magic  Feature)  (1950-61). 

Film,  66  minutes. 
Leslie  Thornton,  Peggy  and  Fred  in  Hell,  the  Prologue  (1985).  Film, 

21  minutes. 
Charles  Amirkhanian,  Dreams  Freud  Dreamed  (1979).  Audiotape, 

5  minutes. 

Tuesday,  November  20  at  6:30 

Constance  DeJong,  Vanishing  Act  II  (1990).  Performance. 

Wednesday,  November  21  at  2:00 

Hollis  Frampton,  Zoms  Lemma  (1970).  Film,  color,  60  minutes. 
Paul  Sharits,  T,0,U,C,H,I,N,G  (1968).  Film,  color,  12  minutes. 
Gregory  Whitehead,  Orai  or  Anal?  (1988).  Audiotape,  1  minute. 
Gregory  Whitehead,  Eva,  can  I  stab  bats  in  a  cave?  (1984).  Audiotape, 

1  minute. 
Charles  Amirkhanian,  Andas  (1982).  Audiotape,  6  minutes. 
Susan  Stone,  Langue  Etude  (1985).  Audiotape,  5  minutes. 

Saturday,  November  24  at  2:00 

Jean-Pierre  Gorin,  Poto  and  Cabengo  (1979).  Film,  color,  77  minutes. 

Sunday,  November  25  at  2:00 

Stuart  Sherman,  Selected  and  New  Works  (1975-90).  Performance. 

Tuesday,  November  27  at  6:30 

David  Antin,  Determination,  Suspension,  Diversion,  Digression, 
Destruction  (1990)  Performance. 

Wednesday,  November  28  at  2:00 

Peter  Rose  and  Jessie  Jane  Lewis,  The  Pressures  of  the  Text  (1983). 

Videotape,  17  minutes. 
George  Landow  (also  known  as  Owen  Land),  Remedial  Reading 

Comprehension  (1970)  Film,  color,  5  minutes. 
Robert  Nelson,  Bleu  Shut  (1970).  Film,  color,  33  minutes. 
Bruce  Conner,  Mongoloid  (1977).  Film,  3'/z  minutes. 


Gregory  Whitehead,  If  a  voice  like,  then  what?  (1984-85).  Audiotape, 

3  minutes. 
Gregory  Whitehead,  The  Problem  with  Bodies  (1988).  Audiotape, 

1  minute. 
Brian  Gysin,  Come  to  Free  the  Words  (1962).  Audiotape,  3  minutes. 

Courtesy  James  Grauerholz,  William  Burroughs  Communications 

Thursday,  November  29  at  2:00 

Howard  Fried,  Vito's  Reef  (1978).  Videotape,  34  minutes. 
Gary  Hill,  Why  Do  Things  Get  in  a  Muddle?  (Come  on  Petunia), 
(1984).  Videotape,  32  minutes. 

Tuesday,  December  4  at  6:30 

Joan  Jonas,  Scenes  1-3  (1990).  Performance. 

Wednesday,  December  5  at  2:00 

Andy  Warhol,  Vinyl  (1965).  Film,  64  minutes. 

The  Residents,  The  Third  Reich  'n  Roll  (1976).  Film,  4  minutes. 

Ken  Jacobs,  Little  Stabs  at  Happiness  (1959-63).  Film,  color, 

15  minutes. 
Manuel  DeLanda,  Raw  Nerves:  A  Lacanian  Thriller  (1980).  Film,  color, 

28  minutes. 
Beth  Anderson,  /  Can't  Stand  It  (1976).  Audiotape,  2  minutes. 

Thursday,  December  6  at  12:00 

Michael  Snow,  Rameau  's  Nephew  by  Diderot  (Thanx  to  Dennis  Young) 
by  Wilma  Shoen  (1974).  Film,  color,  267  minutes. 

Sunday,  December  9  at  2:00 

Ken  Jacobs,  Two  Wrenching  Departures  (1989).  Performance. 


•■ 


Afo.  12  (Heaven  and  Earth  Magic  feature)  (1950-61),  Harry  Smith. 
Photograph  courtesy  Anthology  Film  Archives,  New  York. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avi 

New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours  1  00-8:00 

We<i  00-5:00 

Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copynght  ©  1990  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


L*  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  55 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


TbTal 

Amer 


Gallery  talk,  Saturday,  December  22,  at  3:00. 
David  E.  James  will  be  present. 


In  the  last  pages  of  Dispatches,  his  collected  wartime  jour- 
nalism, Michael  Herr  quotes  with  evident  approval  Tim 
Page's  incredulous  response  to  a  publisher's  request  for 
photographs  that  would  take  the  glamour  out  of  the  Viet- 
nam war:  "Take  the  glamour  out  of  war! "  Page  exclaims,  "I 
mean,  how  the  bloody  hell  can  you  do  that?  .  .  .  It's  like 
trying  to  take  the  glamour  out  of  sex,  trying  to  take  the 
glamour  out  of  the  Rolling  Stones." a  In  Apocalypse  Now  and 
other  films  of  the  late  seventies,  Herr's  version  of  a  glam- 
orous Vietnam,  a  sexy,  rock  'ri  roll  "experience"  of  the  same 
phenomenal  intensity  as  the  Jimi  Hendrix  Experience,  in- 
spired what  has  since  become  an  ongoing  genre  of  films 
about  the  war.  For  Hollywood  at  least,  a  misadventure  that 
cost  60,000  American  and  nearly  2  million  Vietnamese  lives 
has  become  an  entertaining  and  profitable  spectacle. 

Domestic  upheavals  during  the  war  itself,  however,  pro- 
hibited such  business.  Except  for  a  few  commercial  produc- 
tions, such  as  John  Wayne's  The  Green  Berets  (1968),  only 
films  outside  Hollywood  and  opposed  to  its  functions  were 
possible.  Concerned  mainly  with  the  war's  effects  on  the 
American  and  Vietnamese  people  rather  than  with  military 
engagements,  these  films  were  more  likely  to  glamorize  not 
the  invasion  but  the  resistance  to  it.  As  diverse  as  the 
parties  who  formed  the  "Mobe" — the  National  Mobilization 
Against  the  War — these  oppositional  films  were  unprece- 
dented^ vital  and  innovative  in  terms  of  both  style  and 
function.  Just  as  alternative  film  documented  the  opposi- 
tion to  the  state  and  to  mass-media  legitimization  of  govern- 
ment policies,  so  alternative  methods  of  producing  and  ex- 
hibiting film  became  social  theaters  where  that  opposition 
was  mobilized.  In  the  process,  the  political  function  of  cin- 
ema and  the  relationship  between  politics  and  art  were 
entirely  refigured. 

The  anti-war  cinemas  took  shape  as  more  overtly  politi- 
cized developments  of  earlier  attempts  to  create  alternatives 
to  Hollywood,  especially  the  late  1950s  underground  film — 
the  aestheticized  protest  film  of  the  beat  generation — and 
the  independent  documentary  movements  adjacent  to  it. 
Protest  films  about  the  cold  war  became  protest  films  about 
the  Vietnam  war;  underground  films  about  beat  life-styles 
evolved  into  the  documentation  of  activists,  protest 
marchers,  and  resistance  workers ;  and  the  critique  of  the 


Summer  '68  (1969),  Norman  Fruchter  and  John  Douglas. 


Hollywood  film  turned  into  the  contestation  of  mass-media 
accounts  of  the  war.2  The  transitions  are  fully  traced  in 
Jonas  Mekas'  series  Diaries,  Notes  &  Sketches,  and  indeed  as 
late  as  1968  Mekas  could  still  claim  that  there  was  "no 
difference  between  the  avant-garde  film  and  the  avant- 
garde  newsreel."3 

Since  it  was  not  easy  for  filmmakers  working  outside  the 
virtually  unified  state,  military,  and  media  apparatuses  to 
gain  direct  access  to  the  events  in  Vietnam,  anti-war  film- 
making began  as  the  interdependent  critique  of  the  mass- 
media  and  the  documentation  of  the  resistance  groups. 
Ironically,  it  initially  appropriated  devices  from  what  had 
been  the  most  aestheticist  camps  of  underground  film. 
Carolee  Schneemanris  Viet-Flakes  (1965),  the  first  Ameri- 
can film  to  attack  the  war's  atrocities,  adapted  the  manipu- 
lation of  newspaper  images  previously  used,  for  example,  in 
Stan  Vanderbeek's  collage  films  of  the  late  1950s;  Viet- 
Flakes  was  also  the  first  anti-war  film  to  make  thematic  use 
of  rock  'ri  roll  on  the  soundtrack.  Stan  Brakhage's  Song  23: 
23rd  Psalm  Branch — the  most  overtly  political  of  all  his 
films,  prompted  by  the  intolerable  intrusion  of  the  war  into 
his  mountain  home  via  television  news — elaborated  an  es- 
sentially similar  technique.  In  an  ironic  parallel  to  the  gov- 
ernment's own  attempt  to  justify  the  war  as  a  defense 


The  New  American  Film  and  Vide 
olidatedEcir 


lanufa' 


In  the  Year  of  the  Pig  (1969),  Emile  de  Antonio.  Courtesy  Turin  Film  Corporation. 


against  a  communist  aggression  perceived  as  parallel  to 
Nazi  and  Japanese  fascism,  Brakhage  used  World  War  n 
movie  footage  to  present  his  conception  of  war  as  a  trans- 
historical  inevitability.  Documentation  of  the  domestic  un- 
rest began  with  Bruce  Baillie's  Quixote.  Shot  in  1964-65  but 
not  edited  until  1968,  it  is  the  most  severely  beautiful 
scrutiny  of  America  in  its  lurch  toward  the  crises  of  the 
second  half  of  the  decade ;  as  the  protagonist  moves  east, 
the  film  becomes  increasingly  preoccupied  with  television 
news  reports  from  Vietnam,  but  also  with  anti-war 
demonstrations. 

Although  these  works  are  the  most  sophisticated  and 
committed  filmic  meditations  on  the  war,  even  ostensibly 
non-political  filmmakers  could  not  entirely  avoid  the  effects 
of  America's  increasing  military  involvement.  Inevitably  it 
appears — though  in  very  different  ways — in  the  work  of 
Andy  Warhol  and  Paul  Sharits:  in  The  Chelsea  Girls  (1966), 
Mary  Woronov  is  cast  in  a  Ronald  Tavel  play  about  Hanoi 
Hannah;  Piece  Mandala/End  War  (1966)  is  filled  with  an 
optical  violence,  a  thematic  expressivity  of  imagery  not  yet 
absorbed  into  the  pure  aestheticism  of  later  structural  film. 

With  the  escalation  of  both  the  invasion  and  domestic 
resistance  to  it,  it  became  more  difficult  to  sustain  the  anti- 
political  disengagement  of  the  beat  generation,  and  by  the 
middle  of  the  decade  underground  film  was  rapidly  losing 


its  viability  and  splintering  into  more  clearly  politicized 
forms.  The  transition  is  visible  in  Leonard  Henny's  The 
Resistance,  in  which,  as  late  as  1968,  communal  eating, 
yoga,  and  other  hippie  rituals  could  still  coexist  with  more 
overt  political  action  and  news  stories  about  the  war.  There 
are  many  similar  instances  where  the  documentation  of  the 
anti-war  movement  grows  out  of  home  movies  about  beat 
life-styles:  Lenny  Liptoris  We  Shall  March  Again  (1965), 
Jerry  Abram's  Be-In  (1967),  Anthony  Reveaux's  Peace 
March  (1967-76),  David  Ringo's  March  on  the  Pentagon 
(1968),  and  Saul  Levine's  New  Left  Note  (1968/82)  were  all 
amateur  films  about  peace  marches  and  other  forms  of  civil 
protest.  But  as  confrontation  with  the  government  mounted 
and  the  anti-war  movement  continued  to  be  misrepre- 
sented in  the  popular  press,  the  need  for  more  formal  organi- 
zation among  oppositional  media  became  clear.  The  cata- 
lyst was  the  October  1967  March  on  the  Pentagon.  A 
number  of  New  York  filmmakers  later  pooled  the  footage 
they  had  shot  there  to  produce  No  Game  (1968),  a  documen- 
tary of  the  occupation  of  the  Pentagon  grounds  and  the 
military's  deliberate  attacks  on  unarmed  US  citizens.  It  be- 
came "the  first  Newsreel  film."4 

New  York  Newsreel  was  founded  in  1967  as  a  cooperative 
of  independent  filmmakers,  many  of  whom  had  previously 
been  filming  radical  activity.  In  order  to  provide  (in  the 


® 


•  ' 


words  of  an  initial  manifesto)  "an  alternative  to  the  limited 
and  biased  coverage  of  television  news,"  several  kinds  of 
films  were  envisioned:  "short  newsreels  which  will  appear 
every  week  or  two;  longer,  more  analytic  documentaries; 
informational  and  tactical  films."5  Plans  were  also  made  for 
non-theatrical  projection,  for  the  encouragement  of  a  net- 
work of  newsreel  centers  in  San  Francisco,  Chicago,  Boston, 
and  other  major  cities,  and  for  the  distribution  of  foreign 
films  about  the  war.  In  this  Utopian  reinvention  of  cinema  as 
a  practice  of,  by,  and  for  the  people  rather  than  as  a  commod- 
ity manufactured  by  corporate  industries,  the  styles  and 
functions  of  the  early  Soviet  documentary  cinema,  specifi- 
cally as  it  had  come  to  the  US  in  the  Workers'  Film  and  Photo 
League  of  the  early  thirties,  were  rediscovered. 

The  reportorial  style  of  the  newsreels  was  inflected  by 
their  makers'  desire  to  incite  audiences  to  intervene  actively 
in  the  political  arena.  The  integration  of  filmmaking  with 
political  action  not  only  encouraged  direct  confrontation 
with  state  power,  but  justified  the  emphasis  in  the  films  on 
emotional  impact  and  the  subordination  of  dispassionate 
analysis.  The  imperfection  of  means — the  films  were  often 
grainy,  with  jerky  camera  movements,  and  in  other  ways 
technically  crude — thus  reflected  the  exigencies  under 
which  the  footage  was  obtained  and  the  film  edited  and 
also  signaled  the  desired  effects.  As  filmmaker  Robert 
Kramer  argued,  "You  want  to  make  films  that  unnerve,  that 
shake  assumptions,  that  threaten,  that  do  not  soft-sell,  but 
hopefully  (an  impossible  ideal)  explode  like  grenades  in 
peoples'  faces,  or  open  minds  like  a  good  can  opener."6 
Although  such  a  blatantly  agitational  aesthetic  was  not 
shared  by  all  (and  indeed  a  "correct  line"  of  any  kind  was 
never  agreed  upon),  it  was  certainly  more  of  a  rule  than  an 
exception.  And  so  while  anomalies  like  Saul  Levine's  New 
Left  Note  did  document  the  anti-war  movement  with  a 
highly  complex  visual  vocabulary  in  the  mode  of  Brakhage, 
the  newsreels  themselves  employed  a  more  transparent 
style — though  all  of  them  contained  at  least  one  instance  of 
visual  violence  presented  as  a  correlative  to  social  violence : 
the  staccato,  machine-gunlike  flickering  of  the  Newsreel 
logo  itself. 

Films  made  by  Newsreel  within  this  agitational  aesthetic 
included  documentaries  about  strategies  for  beating  the 
draft ;  interviews  with  prominent  spokespeople  for  the  draft 
resistance,  such  as  Noam  Chomsky;  discussions  among 
Vietnam  vets,  teenage  dropouts,  and  black  militants ;  depic- 
tions and  analyses  of  the  events  in  Chicago  around  the  1968 
Democratic  National  Convention;  documentation  of  resis- 
tance within  the  military,  including  the  1971  veterans' 
march  on  Washington;  and  many  films  about  student  mo- 
bilization, civil  rights,  and  the  conditions  of  the  working 
class,  ethnic  minorities,  and  women.  Significant  titles 
among  surviving  films  include  Boston  Draft  Resistance 
Group,  Chicago  Convention  Challenge,  and  Chomsky — 
Resist  from  1968;  America  and  Summer  '68  from  1969;  and 
Only  the  Beginning  from  1971.  Picking  up  on  the  example  of 
Peter  Gessner's  Time  of  the  Locust  (1966),  which  juxta- 
posed newsreel  footage  of  US  atrocities  with  speeches  by 
President  Johnson,  several  films  about  the  Vietnamese 
resistance  were  also  made,  most  notably  People's  War 


(1969).  This  newsreel  placed  the  liberation  effort  in  the 
context  of  the  earlier  struggle  against  French  colonialism 
and  the  resultant  economic  underdevelopment  of  Vietnam. 

The  Newsreel  activists  realized  that  as  long  as  the  same 
forces  that  controlled  commercial  film  production  also  con- 
trolled distribution,  it  was  useless  to  create  radical  films 
without  also  developing  a  system  for  making  them  avail- 
able. Considerable  energy  was  put  into  promotion,  and  the 
Newsreel  collectives  became  distribution  centers,  circulat- 
ing not  only  their  own  films,  but  also  documentaries  from 
abroad,  from  Cuba  (including  Hanoi,  Tuesday  the  13th 
[1967]  and  The  Seventy-Nine  Springtimes  of  Ho  Chi  Minh 
[1969]  by  Santiago  Alvarez),  and  from  Vietnam.  Some  films 
made  by  the  National  Liberation  Front  had  previously  been 
seen  in  the  US ; 7  but  after  Newsreel's  formation  several  more 
of  the  eight  hundred  documentaries  made  by  the  NLF  and 
the  Hanoi  government  became  more  accessible  to  the  anti- 
war movement.8  Among  these  were  A  Day  of  Plane  Hunting 
(1968),  which  emphasized  the  role  of  women  in  agriculture 
as  well  as  in  combat;  Struggle  for  Life  (1968),  which 
revealed  the  substantial  medical  resources  of  the  NLF ;  and 
two  films  from  North  Vietnam,  Young  Puppeteers  of  Viet- 
nam (1969),  about  the  adaptation  of  folk  culture  to  the  libera- 
tion struggle,  and  US  Techniques  and  Genocide  in  Vietnam 
(1968),  about  the  deployment  of  advanced  anti-civilian 
weaponry  against  unarmed  peasants. 

The  Newsreels,  with  their  vehement  and  unqualified  at- 
tack on  military  action,  were  the  most  important  films  in  the 
domestic  struggle  against  the  war.  However,  there  were 
other  documentaries,  either  made  independently  or  for  var- 
ious television  stations,  which  represented  all  political  posi- 
tions and  production  methods,  ranging  from  well-financed 
and  army-assisted  endorsements,  more  extreme  in  their 
historical  distortions  than  even  Why  Vietnam?  (1965),  the 
State  Department's  own  apologia  for  President  Johnson's 
bombing  of  North  Vietnam,  to  extremely  amateur  produc- 
tions. These  latter  include  Nick  Macdonald's  home  movie 
made  with  toy  soldiers  and  newspaper  clippings,  The  Lib- 
eral War  (1972).  An  indictment  of  the  war  not  as  a  mistake  or 
aberration  but  as  the  entirely  logical  outcome  of  liberalism, 
it  is  argued  from  an  anarchist  position  that  privileges  a 


The  Liberal  War  (1972),  Nick  Macdonald. 


decentralized  domestic  filmmaking  practice.  David  Loeb 
Weiss'  No  Vietnamese  Ever  Called  Me  Nigger  (1968),  with  its 
intercut  interviews  with  black  veterans  and  Harlem  protest 
marchers,  indicted  the  war  as  a  continuation  of  domestic 
racism.  As  these  instances  illustrate — and  the  same  is  true 
for  commentary  about  the  war  in  popular  music — positions 
most  divergent  from  those  of  the  administration  and  the 
popular  media  were  argued  in  works  made  by  the  most 
marginal  methods,  while  in  general  the  more  mainstream 
productions  followed  the  government  line  and  only  tardily 
responded  to  the  shift  in  public  opinion.  Films  about  the 
soldiers  tended  to  emphasize  the  difficulties  and  dangers  of 
their  assignments  rather  than  the  substantially  greater  dif- 
ficulties and  dangers  they  inflicted  upon  the  people  of  Viet- 
nam. Eugene  S.  Jones'  A  Face  of  War  (1967)  restricts  its 
attention  to  the  US  Marines  in  this  fashion,  while  Beryl  Fox's 
Last  Reflections  on  a  War  (1968)  gives  a  more  judicious 
analysis  of  the  contradictions  of  the  American  presence. 

Nineteen  sixty- nine  saw  the  release  of  Emile  de  Antonio's 
immensely  important  In  the  Year  of  the  Pig.  This  film  at  last 
presented  the  war  not  just  in  terms  of  the  phenomenology  of 
the  American  combat  soldier,  but  historically,  as  an  anti- 
colonial  struggle  in  which  the  Vietnamese  people  (including 
their  various  and  sometimes  adversarial  groups)  were  the 
subjects  of  their  own  history  rather  than  merely  the  invisi- 
ble irritants  of  US  history.  Its  collage  method  of  juxtaposing 
incommensurate  accounts  of  the  course  of  the  war  was 
subsequently  used,  though  with  none  of  de  Antonio's  sub- 
tle and  precise  irony,  in  Peter  Davis'  Hearts  and  Minds  of 
1974.  By  this  time,  after  the  invasions  of  Cambodia  and 
Laos,  the  mining  of  Haiphong  harbor,  and  the  massive 
bombing  raids  over  North  Vietnam,  as  well  as  the  judicial 
traumas  of  the  Nixon  administration,  public  opinion  was 
sufficiently  united  against  the  invasion  so  that  at  last  Holly- 
wood found  it  financially  worthwhile  to  make  a  film  op- 
posed to  the  war.  Hearts  and  Minds  won  an  Academy 
Award  for  the  best  documentary  feature.  Five  years  later, 
the  glamorization  began. 

David  E.  James 
Guest  Curator 


*I  would  like  to  thank  Rick  Berg  and  Sarah  Kerruish  for  then  assistance  in 
this  project. 

1.  Michael  Hen,  Dispatches  (New  York:  Alfred  A.  Knopf,  1978),  p.  248. 

2.  For  the  politicization  of  underground  film,  see  David  E.  James,  Allegories 
of  Cinema:  American  Film  in  the  Sixties  (Princeton,  New  Jersey:  Prince- 
ton University  Press,  1989) 

3.  "Movie  Journal,"  The  Village  Voice,  February  29,  1968,  p.  40. 

4.  Third  World  Newsreel:  Twentieth  Anniversay  Program  Guide  (New  York: 
Camera  News,  1987),  p.  97.  For  the  Newsreels,  see  Bill  Nichols,  "News- 
reel:  Film  and  Revolutions,"  Cineaste,  5,  no.  4  (1973),  pp.  7-13,  and  Michael 
Renov,  "Early  Newsreel:  The  Construction  of  a  Political  Imaginary  for  the 
New  Left,"  Afterimage,  14,  no.  7  (1987),  pp.  12-15. 

5.  Quoted  in  Jonas  Mekas,  Movie  Journal:  The  Rise  of  a  New  American 
Cinema,  19591971  (New  York:  Collier  Books,  1972),  p.  306. 

6.  Quoted  in  "Newsreel,"  Film  Quarterly,  22  (Winter  1968),  p.  46. 

7.  Peter  Gessner  described  these  in  a  short  article  in  The  Nation,  "Films 
from  the  Vietcong,"  January  24,  1966,  pp.  110-11. 

8.  On  Vietnamese  films,  see  John  Tran,  "Vietnamese  Cultural  Production 
During  the  American  War,"  in  The  Vietnam  Era,  ed.  Michael  Klein  (Lon- 
don: Pluto  Press,  1990),  pp.  199-211. 


SCHEDULE 

All  films  are  16mm,  black-and-white,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise 
noted. 

Saturday,  December  15  at  2:00 
Tuesday,  December  18  at  2:00 

Carolee  Schneemann,  Viet-Flakes  (1965).  11  minutes.  Sound  collage 

by  James  Tenney. 
Stan  Brakhage,  Song  23:  23rd  Psalm  Branch,  parts  1  and  2 

(1966/78).  Originally  in  regular  8mm,  color,  silent,  85  minutes. 
Peter  Gessner,  Time  of  the  Locust  (1968).  19  minutes. 

Sunday,  December  16  at  2:00 
Wednesday,  December  19  at  2:00 

Paul  Sharits,  Piece  Mandala/End  War  (1966).  Black-and-white  and 

color,  silent,  5  minutes. 
Andy  Warhol,  The  Chelsea  Girls  (1966),  reels  5  ("Hanoi  Hannah") 

and  6  ("Hanoi  Hannah  and  Guests"),  38  minutes. 
Eugene  S.  Jones,  A  Face  of  War  (1967).  70  minutes. 

Tuesday,  December  18  at  6:15 
Thursday,  December  20  at  2:00 
Saturday,  December  22  at  1:30 

Nick  Macdonald,  The  Liberal  War  (1972).  25  minutes. 
Newsreel,  Only  the  Beginning  (1971).  Color,  20  minutes. 
Newsreel,  People's  War  (1969).  40  minutes. 

Friday,  December  21  at  2:00 
Sunday,  December  23  at  2:00 

Bruce  Baillie,  Quixote  (1964-65).  Black-and-white  and  color, 

45  minutes. 
Beryl  Fox,  Last  Reflections  on  a  War  (1968).  44  minutes. 

Wednesday,  December  26  at  2:00 
Friday,  December  28  at  2:00 

Newsreel,  No  Game  (1968).  17  minutes. 

National  Liberation  Front  of  South  Vietnam,  Struggle  for  Life 

(1968).  20  minutes. 
Newsreel,  Boston  Draft  Resistance  Group  (1968).  18  minutes. 
Leonard  Henny,  The  Resistance  (1968).  Color,  16V2  minutes. 

Thursday,  December  27  at  2:00 
Saturday,  December  29  at  2:00 

Norman  Fruchter  and  John  Douglas,  Summer  '68  (1969).  60  minutes. 
Santiago  Alvarez,  The  Seventy-Nine  Springtimes  of  Ho  Chi  Minh 
(1969).  25  minutes. 

Sunday,  December  30  at  2:00 
Friday,  January  4  at  2:00 

Newsreel,  America  (1969).  30  minutes. 

Emile  de  Antonio,  In  the  Year  of  the  Pig  (1969).  101  minutes. 

Wednesday,  January  2  at  2:00 
Saturday,  January  5  at  2:00 

David  Loeb  Weiss,  No  Vietnamese  Ever  Called  Me  Nigger  (1968). 

Color,  68  minutes. 
Saul  Levine,  New  Left  Note  (1968/82).  Originally  in  regular  8mm, 

color,  silent,  28  minutes. 

Thursday,  January  3  at  2:00 
Sunday,  January  6  at  2:00 

Anthony  Reveaux,  Peace  March  (1967-76).  Color,  \2Vz  minutes. 
Peter  Davis,  Hearts  and  Minds  (1974).  Color,  112  minutes. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  IV1 


• 


Hours 


« 


Copynght  c  1990  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  56 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


In  Aztlan:  The  Films  of  the  Chicano  Movement,  1969-79 


January  9-27,  1991 


Gallery  Talk,  Tuesday,  January  22  at  6:30. 
Eduardo  Diaz  and  Chon  A.  Noriega,  guest  curators, 
will  be  present. 


"Before  the  world  .  .  .  we  are  a  nation,  we  are  a  union  of  free  pueblos, 
we  are  Aztlan." — "The  Spiritual  Plan  of  Aztlan,"  19691 

Welcome  back  to  Aztlan,  mythical  homeland  of  the  Aztecs, 
later  northern  Mexico,  and  since  1848  the  southwestern 
United  States.  In  1969,  the  Chicano  Movement  reclaimed 
Aztlan  as  its  nation  and  has  since  rooted  Chicano  identity, 
with  its  history  of  conquests  and  mestizo  resistance,  in  a 
complex  geopolitical  space. 

By  1965,  diverse  social  protests  in  the  Southwest  had 
coalesced  into  a  national  civil  rights  movement  known  as 
the  Chicano  Movement.  Aztlan — now  considered  its  funda- 
mental ideological  construct  or  living  myth — provided  an 
alternative  geography  for  these  efforts  to  reclaim,  reform,  or 
redefine  social  space — land,  government,  schools,  and  the 
urban  barrio.  Aztlan  also  helped  set  in  motion  a  cultural 
reclamation  project  in  literature,  the  arts,  scholarship,  and 
everyday  culture;  in  its  current  sense,  Aztlan  now  refers  to 
those  places  where  Chicano  culture  flourishes. 

Between  1968  and  1970,  Chicanos  who  had  been  active 
in  the  student  and  farmworkers  protests  turned  to  film  and 
television  as  a  means  to  spread  the  message  about  the 
Chicano  Movement.  Moctesuma  Esparza,  one  of  the  L.A. 
Thirteen  indicted  on  conspiracy  charges  in  the  East  L.A. 
high  school  walk-outs,  organized  the  UCLA  Mother 
Muckers  film  program  (Media  Urban  Crisis  Coalition), 
which  recruited  thirteen  ethnic  minorities ;  and,  in  San  Juan 
Bautista,  Luis  Valdez,  who  had  founded  El  Teatro  Cam- 
pesino  amid  the  Delano  grape  strike,  filmed  I  Am  Joaquin 
(1969),  based  on  Rodolfo  "Corky"  Gonzales'  epic  poem. 

In  the  early  1970s,  UCLA  served  as  a  training  ground  for 
most  of  the  Chicano  filmmakers.  Given  the  imperative  to 
spread  the  message  about  the  movement,  students  often 
turned  to  television  projects,  producing  minority  public  af- 
fairs shows  and  specials  that  reported  on  various  protests. 
The  most  crucial  lesson  learned  was  how  to  subvert  the 
discursive  parameters  of  mass  media,  so  that  Chicano  film- 
makers could  work  within  and  yet  against  the  industry  and 
its  conventions.  With  Reflecciones  (1973),  Luis  Garza,  Susan 
Racho,  and  David  Garcia  mastered  the  objective  discourse 
of  reportage  in  order  to  pioneer  a  new  form  of  television,  the 


Eduardo  Moreno  m  Yo  Soy  Chicano  (1972),  directed  by  Barry  Nye.  Written 
and  produced  by  Jesus  Salvador  Treviho. 


political  documentary  series,  which  protested  the  Vietnam 
War,  advocated  a  farmworkers  union,  and  exposed  the  crim- 
inal legal  system. 

In  1975,  the  efforts  that  began  within  the  social  pro- 
test movement  acquired  an  institutional  dimension. 
Realidades — a  local  public  television  program  in  New  York 
created  when  Puerto  Rican  activists  took  over  the  station — 
became  the  first  national  Latino  series.  Realidades  commis- 
sioned Chicano  films,  including  Cristal  (1975)  and  Gua- 
dalupe (1976),  and  producer  Humberto  Cintron  organized 
the  National  Latino  Media  Coalition,  which  lobbied  public 
television,  government  agencies,  and  Congress.  The  same 
year,  the  national  Chicano  Film  Festival  (now  CineFestival) 
was  founded  in  San  Antonio,  Texas;  and,  in  Los  Angeles, 
the  Chicano  Cinema  Coalition  (1975-80)  served  as  a 
resource  for  filmmakers  and  as  a  platform  for  protests 
against  exploitation  films  and  industry  hiring  practices.  In 
addition,  community-based  exhibitions  created  an  alterna- 
tive Chicano  circuit  for  these  films  made  for  television. 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  AT  &  T  Foundation, 
Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman- Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and 
Catherine  T  MacArthur  Foundation,  the  Film  and  Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts, 
and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


The  filmmakers  also  published,  in  popular  and  academic 
journals,  the  initial  studies  on  Hollywood's  Chicano  stereo- 
types and,  in  a  series  of  manifestos,  offered  a  Chicano 
cinema  as  an  alternative.  In  his  seminal  essay,  "Toward  the 
Development  of  a  Raza  Cinema,"  Francisco  X.  Camplis  situ- 
ated the  emergent  practice  within  the  context  of  New  Latin 
American  Cinema,  concluding  that  "[a]  Chicano  or  Raza 
Cinema  must  by  necessity  be  a  weapon! "  While  the  rhetoric 
belongs  to  the  revolutionary  manifestos  of  Solanas  and  Get- 
ino,  Sanjines  and  Rocha,  Camplis'  ideas  are  rooted  in  his 
personal  experience  of  the  Chicano  Movement,  acquired  as 
he  traveled  throughout  the  Southwest.2  In  the  expression  of 
an  oppositional  stance,  these  manifestos,  like  those  of  the 
movement,  provided  an  alternative  geography  from  which 
to  work  toward  the  center  of  the  American  film  industry. 

The  films  themselves  require  us  to  reconsider  the  two 
sets  of  oppositions  central  to  an  aesthetic  assessment:  form 
and  content;  mise-en-scene  and  montage.  Because  film 
critics  have  not  been  able  to  read  those  cinematic  codes 
which  operate  within  a  bicultural  and  bilingual  context, 
there  has  been  an  assumption  that  Chicano  cinema,  like 
other  ethnic  and/or  protest  cinema,  is  a  cinema  of  content 
and  not  one  of  formal  innovation.  What  has  been  missed, 
however,  is  the  way  in  which  ethnic  content  operates  as  a 
formal  element,  or  becomes  a  style  unto  itself. 

One  element,  overlooked  in  film  scholarship  in  general 
and  of  great  importance  to  Chicano  cinema,  is  that  of  music. 
The  corrido,  or  ballad  of  border  conflict,  as  well  as  other 
traditional  and  hybrid  forms,  were  significant  expressions  of 
the  movement.  And  the  most  provocative  and  popular  Chi- 
cano feature  films  have  been  either  musicals  (Zoot  Suit), 
musical  biographies  (La  Bamba),  musical  parodies  (Born  in 
East  L.A.),  or  about  music  as  resistance  (Ballad  of  Gregorio 
Cortez,  Break  of  Dawn).  More  often  than  not,  music  in  these 
works  first  situates  us  within  a  Chicano  cultural  space, 
using  diverse  styles — indigenous  music,  corridos,  and  con- 
temporary fusion — to  express  mestizaje  (cultural  mix)  as 
well  as  cultural  conflict. 

While  Chicano  cinema  makes  significant  use  of  montage, 
its  sensibility  is  that  of  mise-en-scene,  of  putting  the  Chi- 
cano experience  into  the  scene.  For  the  first  time,  screen 
space  was  filled  not  just  with  Chicano  "images,"  but  with 
the  aural  and  visual  texture  of  our  culture.  Several  films, 
including  Los  Vendidos  (1972)  and  Guadalupe  (1976),  use 
teatro,  or  Chicano  theater,  which  draws  upon  vernacular 
elements  integral  to  the  movement  (Chicano  humor,  Mexi- 
can tradition,  and  Aztec  icons)  in  order  to  foreground  a 
symbolic  social  space.  These  films  depict  agit-prop  actos 
(sketches).  Montage  often  operates  as  a  temporal  extension 
of  mise-en-scene.  Many  Chicano  documentaries,  then  and 
now,  begin  with  a  montage  sequence  that  outlines  the 
history  of  the  Chicano  experience,  starting  at  some  point 
between  the  Conquest  and  the  Mexican  Revolution,  and 
leads  up  to  the  particular  moment  to  be  documented.  These 
films  acknowledge  the  de  facto  horizon  of  expectations  for 
films  about  Chicanos  and  attempt  to  resituate  the  text — but 
not  without  a  sense  of  irony.  In  The  Unwanted  (1976),  Jose 
Luis  Ruiz  uses  sepia-toned  clips  from  motion  pictures  about 


the  Mexican- American  War  in  a  subtle  comment  on  how 
that  event  is  now  understood. 

Even  montage  in  the  Eisensteinian  sense  depends  upon 
the  ability  to  read  the  bicultural  codes  in  the  mise-en-  scene. 
The  establishing  shot  for  Cristal  (1975),  for  example,  does 
not  present  Crystal  City,  Texas,  but  rather  a  dissolve  from 
the  symbol  for  one  world  view  to  that  of  another.  In  the  first 
shot  a  billboard  put  up  by  the  Chamber  of  Commerce  an- 
nounces "Crystal  City,  Spinach  Capital  of  the  World."  The 
camera  pans  left  to  reveal  a  Popeye  statue  beside  the  bill- 
board and  dissolves  to  another  billboard  that  reads,  "Cristal, 
nacimiento  del  partido  raza  unida"  (Crystal,  birthplace  of 
the  Raza  Unida  Party).  Beneath  these  words  is  the  Aztec 
warrior  icon  for  the  party;  and,  along  the  bottom,  the  sen- 
tence, "Jose  Angel  Gutierrez  para  juez"  (for  judge). 

In  outlining  the  dominant  and  alternative  geographies, 
the  film  posits  a  viewer  able  to  read  the  shift  in  cultural  and 
linguistic  codes.  First  is  the  formal  shift  from  English  to 
Spanish;  and  then  a  contentual  shift  from  the  Anglo- 
controlled  agribusiness  to  the  first  and  most  successful 
voters  revolt  of  the  Chicano  Movement.  More  subtle  is  the 
shift  in  cultural  icons:  from  Popeye,  a  popular  culture  ad- 
junct to  agribusiness,  to  another  soldier,  the  Aztec  warrior, 
beneath  the  message  itself. 

Each  program  in  the  series  examines  the  first  decade  of 
Chicano  cinema  from  the  perspective  of  a  cultural  paradigm 
central  to  the  movement.  All  but  one  program  ends  with 
Chicana  films — films  produced  by  women — that  challenge 
and  redirect  each  paradigm.  Both  cultural  paradigm  and 
film  practice  participate  in  the  movement's  larger  discourse 
on  Aztlan,  situating  Chicano  identity,  protest,  and  cultural 
practice  within  multiple  geographies. 

Program  I,  Chicanismo:  Reclaiming  an  Identity,  consists 
of  the  three  master  texts  for  Chicano  historical  documen- 
taries. J  Am  Joaquin  (1969)  and  Chicana  (1979)  frame  the 
period  and  together  delineate  its  historical,  political,  and 
aesthetic  vision.  The  films  set  forth  a  worker-based  ideology 
and  cultural  identity  that  are  rooted  in  pre-Columbian 
mythopoetics  and  the  five-hundred-year  history  of  mestizo 
resistance.  Camera  movements,  music,  and  the  narrators' 
voices  activate  the  still  photographs  that  constitute  the 
visual  text.  By  documenting  the  female  presence  within  the 
nationalist  paradigm,  Chicana  marks  an  initial  step  in  the 
representation  of  a  Chicano  identity  that  affirms  rather  than 
transcends  the  gender,  class,  and  political  divisions  within 
the  community.  Yo  Soy  Chicano  (1972),  certainly  the  most 
ambitious  film  in  the  program,  explores  diverse  documen- 
tary styles  in  ten  thematic  segments,  detailing  the  historical 
nationalism  of  the  other  films. 

Chicano  cinema  has  been  a  cinema  of  poor  means  even  in 
relation  to  independent  cinema.  Thus,  the  make-do  style  of 
Chicano  art  transforms  a  medium  that  prides  itself  on  for- 
mal and  technical  innovation.  As  Jose  Montoya  explains, 
"Being  a  Chicano  artist  means  doing  something  creative 
with  whatever  is  at  hand."3  Of  course,  the  things  "at  hand" 
include  cultural  icons,  forms,  and  language.  Program  II,  Ras- 
quachismo:  The  Underdog  Aesthetic  of  El  Teatro  Campesino, 


# 


) 


examines  the  use  of  teatro  in  film.  In  the  first  instance, 
teatro  solved  budget  and  schedule  limitations,  since  a  piece 
could  be  staged  before  several  cameras  in  a  television  stu- 
dio. In  1981,  Luis  Valdez  would  use  the  same  technique  to 
shoot  the  low-budget  Zoot  Suit.  The  use  of  teatro,  however, 
was  more  than  a  mere  economic  response ;  it  was  one  mani- 
festation of  rasquachismo,  a  Chicano  sensibility  that  fore- 
grounds the  rasquache,  underdog,  or  make-do  element. 

In  El  Corrido:  La  Carpa  de  los  Rasquachis  (1976),  the  "tent 
of  the  underdogs"  refers,  in  part,  to  the  canvas-covered  truck 
in  which  the  corrido  is  performed.  The  stage  curtain  con- 
sists of  the  farmworkers'  burlap  sacks,  while  in  the  narra- 
tive a  rope  held  by  el  Diablo/Patron  symbolizes  the  border.  In 
order  to  cross,  Jesus  Pelado  Rasquachi — the  irreverently 
named  Jesus  Poor  Tramp — must  place  the  noosed  end  of 
the  rope  around  his  neck.  The  major  turning  point  in  the  tale 
occurs  when  Pelado  internalizes  the  border,  tying  the  loose 
end  around  his  waist.  Televised  as  part  of  the  PBS- Visions 
series,  El  Corrido  also  makes  do  with  vernacular  language, 
creating  an  insider's  discourse  that  could  not  be  broadcast 
in  English.  When  Pelado  takes  a  train  to  the  Mexico-United 
States  border,  el  Diablo  and  la  Calavera  (the  skeleton)  act  as 
engine  and  caboose,  chanting  a  telling  onomatopoeic  ob- 
scenity for  the  sound  of  the  train:  "chingate,  chingate, 
chingate.  .  .  ." 

The  films  in  Program  in,  Made  in  Aztlan:  The  Cinema  of 
Resistance  in  the  Southwest,  document  the  Chicano  Move- 
ment from  the  perspective  of  political  and  cultural  resis- 
tance. Requiem-29  (1971),  filmed  amid  the  police  riot  that 
ended  the  peaceful  Chicano  Moratorium  Against  the  Viet- 
nam War,  is  an  example  of  direct  cinema  that  conveys  the 
urgency  of  the  moment,  distal  (1975)  deconstructs  the 
conventional  "both  sides  of  the  story"  documentary  style, 
while  Guadalupe  (1976)  uses  teatro  to  recreate  recent 
events  even  as  it  elevates  them  to  allegorical  status.  Car- 
nalitos  (1973)  and  Aqueda  Martinez:  Our  People,  Our  Coun- 
try (1977)  break  from  the  strident  or  militant  style  of  the 
protest  films  to  express  resistance  in  unexpected  ways:  in 
the  gentle  understatement  of  the  gang  members  in  Car- 
nalitos;  and  in  the  lyricism  of  Aqueda  Martinez,  the  portrait 
of  an  elderly  curandera  (healer)  in  New  Mexico. 

The  films  in  Program  IV,  Mi  Otro  Yo:  Immigration  and  the 
Barrio,  confront  the  politics  of  immigration  from  a  third 
perspective  that  critiques  the  rigid  dualism  of  Mexican  and 
U.S.  policies,  while  it  reveals  how  the  immigration  continu- 
um sustains  and  diversifies  barrio  culture.  The  Unwanted 
(1976)  plays  with  point  of  view  conventions,  especially  as  it 
follows  immigration  officers  in  pursuit  of  "illegal  aliens"; 
while  Despues  del  Terremoto/ After  the  Earthquake  (1979) 
broadens  the  discourse  on  immigration  and  the  barrio  to 
include  Central  Americans  as  well  as  the  gender  politics  of 
barrio  assimilation.  In  Despues  del  Terremoto,  Lourdes  Por- 
tillo  also  pioneers  the  use  of  the  telenovela,  or  Mexican  soap 
opera,  as  a  means  to  confront  social  issues  that  otherwise 
cannot  easily  be  spoken  about. 

Today,  the  telenovela  is  the  genre  par  excellence  for  Latino 
films  about  AIDS  and  domestic  violence  in  the  barrio.  As  in 
the  conventional  telenovela,  mise-en-scene  becomes  syn- 


onymous with  the  traditional  Latino  home.  Portillo,  however, 
frames  the  narrative  with  bilingual  title  cards  and  an  acor- 
deon  score  that  together  evoke  silent  cinema.  These  ele- 
ments undercut  the  romantic  melodrama,  then  redirect  its 
exposed  fictional  status  toward  feminist  political  parable. 

Finally  Program  V  jA  la  brava!,  pays  tribute  to  the  persis- 
tence, against  all  odds,  that  has  made  and  continues  to 
make  Chicano  cinema  an  alternative  to  commercial  film  and 
television  or  an  expression  within  it.  The  program  begins 
with  episodes  from  Reflecciones  and  Realidades,  which  were 
filmed  as  documentaries,  but  now  exist  in  second-  or  third- 
generation  video  copies.  These  episodes  serve  to  raise  an 
urgent  issue:  the  preservation  of  Chicano-Latino  film  cul- 
ture. Recently,  KABC-TV  in  Los  Angeles  erased  the  master 
tapes  for  the  thirty-nine  episodes  of  Reflecciones.  The  epi- 
sode seen  here  is  one  of  seven  that  Luis  Garcia  had  previ- 
ously transferred.  Other  series  and  specials,  such  as  El 
Corrido,  face  a  similar  fate.  Several  films  in  the  program  will 
be  screened  from  the  only  extant  film  print,  while  others, 
such  as  Requiem-29,  show  signs  of  extensive  wear. 

Chicano  filmmakers  turned  to  television  because  it  offered 
immediate,  if  limited,  access  and  resources.  The  second  half 
of  Program  V  looks  at  a  more  recent  phenomenon  driven  by 
the  same  impulses:  video  art.  These  videos  build  on  the 
stylistic  and  thematic  concerns  of  the  movement,  while 
touching  on  the  marginal  but  extensive  experimental  works 
by  Chicano  artists  such  as  Ernie  Palomino,  Willie  Varela, 
Gronk  and  Gamboa,  Juan  Salazar,  and  Daniel  Salazar. 

For  Chicanas,  video  offers  the  same  access  and  imme- 
diacy that  television  did  for  an  earlier,  mostly  male  genera- 
tion. And,  as  Lourdes  Portillo  argues,  video  may  lead  to  an 
increase  in  the  number  of  Chicana  media  artists,  if  not  the 
development  of  a  Chicana  video  aesthetic.  Experimental 
videos  such  as  Anima  (1989)  and  Mujeria:  The  Olmeca  Rap 
(1990)  critique  the  male  orientation  of  Chicano  nationalism, 
using  expressionism  as  the  fulcrum  for  reorienting  spiri- 
tual ritual  and  mythical  icons  around  a  Chicana  feminist 
nationalism. 

Beyond  the  films  and  the  spaces  within  the  text  lies  the 
question  of  the  place  of  Chicano  cinema:  On  what  national, 
political,  and  cultural  plane  can  we  situate  it?  If  we  turn  to 
film  historiography,  Chicano  cinema  does  not  exist  at  all, 
neither  as  a  movement,  nor  as  a  group  of  individual  films. 
But,  according  to  Jesus  Trevino,  "The  films  that  have 
resulted  are  at  once  an  expression  of  the  life,  concerns  and 
issues  of  the  Chicano  people,  and  at  the  same  time,  the 
northernmost  expression  of  a  political  and  socially  con- 
scious international  cinema  movement  known  as  New  Latin 
American  Cinema."4 

It  was  as  citizens  of  Aztlan,  "the  lands  to  the  north,"  that 
Trevino  and  a  delegation  of  Chicano  filmmakers  attended 
the  First  New  Latin  American  Cinema  Festival  in  Havana, 
Cuba,  in  1979.  The  experience  resulted  in  an  increased 
international  perspective  in  Chicano  films  in  the  1980s.  At 
the  same  time,  however,  Chicano  filmmakers  continued  to 
make  inroads  into  the  American  film  and  television  indus- 
try. From  the  start,  then,  Chicano  cinema  has  functioned 


between  a  weapon  and  a  formula;  between  the  political 
alternative  of  New  Latin  American  Cinema  and  the  eco- 
nomic formula  of  Hollywood.  Chicano  cinema  was  not  just 
at  the  margins ;  it  fell  into  the  interstice  between  two  cul- 
tures, where  it  struggled  against  the  silence  and  invisibility 
imposed  on  the  Chicano  experience. 

Aztlan,  it  must  be  remembered,  names  an  already  lost 
homeland  and  is  therefore  more  situational  than  situated.  In 
the  mytho-historical  introduction  to  Los  Vendidos  in  Pro- 
gram EI,  Luis  Valdez  takes  the  concept  of  Aztlan  to  its  brash, 
yet  logical  extreme,  when  he  proclaims  El  Teatro  Cam- 
pesino  "the  Farmworkers  Theater  of  Aztlan,  of  the  South- 
west, of  America,  of  the  Earth .  .  .  of  the  Universe."  One  does 
not,  after  all,  stand  in  Aztlan  without  also  occupying  the 

other  spaces.  _        .   _,    . 

Chon  A.  Nonega 

Guest  Curator 

Notes 

1.  Manifesto,  as  published  in  Atzlan:  Essays  on  the  Chicano  Homeland, 
eds.  Rudolfo  A  Anaya  and  Francisco  Lomeli  (Albuquerque,  New 
Mexico:  Acaderrua/El  Norte  Publications,  1989),  pp.  1-5. 

2  Francisco  X.  Camphs,  "Toward  the  Development  of  a  Raza  Cinema,"  in 
Perspectives  on  Chicano  Education,  eds.  Tobias  and  Sandra  Gonzales 
(Stanford,  California:  Chicano  Fellows/Stanford  University  Press,  1975), 
pp.  155-73. 

3.  Quoted  in  the  documentary  Mi  Otro  Yo  (1988),  directed  by  Amy  and 
Phillip  Brookman. 

4.  Jesus  Salvador  Treviho,  "Chicano  Cinema  Overview,"  Areito,  no.  37 
(1984),  pp.  40-43. 


SCHEDULE 

All  films  are  16mm,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted.  All 
videotapes  are  W,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Program  I:  Chicanismo:  Reclaiming  an  Identity 

Wednesday,  January  9  at  2:00 

Friday,  January  11  at  2:00 

Saturday,  January  12  at  2:00 

I  Am  Joaquin  (1969),  produced  by  El  Teatro  Campesino.  Based  on  the 

poem  by  Rodolfo  "Corky"  Gonzales.  Film,  20  minutes. 
Yo  Soy  Chicano  (1972),  directed  by  Barry  Nye.  Written  and  produced  by 

Jesus  Salvador  Treviho.  Film,  59  minutes. 
Chicana  (1979),  directed  and  produced  by  Sylvia  Morales.  Film,  22  minutes. 

Program  II:  Rasquachismo:  The  Underdog  Aesthetic  of  El  Teatro 
Campesino 

Sunday.  January  13  at  2:00 

Tuesday,  January  15  at  2 :  00 

Wednesday,  January  16  at  2:00 

Los  Vendidos  (1972),  directed  by  George  Paul.  Produced  by  Jose  Luis  Ruiz. 

Created  and  written  by  Luis  Valdez.  Film,  27  minutes. 
El  Corrido:  La  Carpa  de  los  Rasquachis  (1976),  directed  by  Kurt  Browning. 

Written  and  staged  by  Luis  Valdez.  Produced  by  El  Teatro  Campesino 

and  PBS-Visions.  Videotape,  70  minutes. 

Program  III:  Made  in  Aztlan:  The  Cinema  of  Resistance  in  the 
Southwest 

Friday,  January  18  at  2:00 
Saturday,  January  19  at  2:00 
Sunday,  January  20  at  2:00 

Requiem-29  (1971),  written  and  directed  by  David  Garcia.  Produced  by 
Moctesuma  Esparza  Film,  29  minutes. 


Cristal  (1975),  written,  produced,  and  directed  by  Severo  Perez.  Film, 

13  minutes. 
Guadalupe  (1976),  directed  by  Jose  Luis  Ruiz.  Produced  by  David  Sandoval 

and  Jose  Luis  Ruiz.  Written  by  El  Teatro  de  la  Esperanza.  Film, 

26  minutes. 
Camalitos  (1973),  directed  by  Richard  Davies.  Produced  by  Bobby  Paramo. 

Film,  13  minutes. 
Aqueda  Martinez:  Our  People  Our  Country  (1977),  directed  and  edited  by 

Esperanza  Vasquez.  Produced  by  Moctesuma  Esparza.  Film, 

16  minutes. 

Program  IV:  Mi  Otro  Yo:  Immigration  and  the  Barrio 

Tuesday,  January  22  at  2:00 

Wednesday,  January  23  at  2:00 

Saturday,  January  26  at  2:00 

Los  Desarraigados  (1974),  directed  by  Francisco  X.  Camplis.  Film,  black- 
and-white,  12  minutes. 

The  Unwanted  (1976),  directed  and  produced  by  Jose  Luis  Ruiz.  Film, 
52  minutes. 

Despues  del  Terremoto/ 'After  the  Earthquake  (1979),  written  and  directed 
by  Lourdes  Portillo  and  Nina  Serrano.  Produced  by  Lourdes  Portillo. 
Film,  black-and-white,  27  minutes. 

Program  V:  jA  la  brava! 

Thursday,  January  24  at  2:00 

Friday,  January  25  at  2:00 

Sunday,  January  27  at  2:00 

Second  anniversary  episode  of  Reflecciones  (1973),  produced  by  Luis 

Garza.  Videotape,  27  minutes. 
Episode  of  Realidades: 

Garment  Workers  (1975),  wntten,  produced,  and  directed  by 

Susan  Racho.  Videotape,  15  minutes. 

De  Colores  (1975),  written,  produced,  and  directed  by  Jay  Ojeda. 

Videotape,  10  minutes. 
La  Raza  (1990),  directed  by  Andrew  Doucette.  Wntten  and  performed  by 

Kid  Frost.  Videotape,  3VS  minutes. 
Mujeria:  The  Olmeca  Rap  (1990),  written  and  directed  by  Osa  Hidalgo-de 

la  Riva.  Videotape,  3  minutes. 
Anima  (1989),  produced  and  directed  by  Frances  Salome  Esparia. 

Videotape,  3  minutes. 
Bom  in  East  LA.  (1985),  written,  directed,  and  performed  by 

Richard  "Cheech"  Mann.  Videotape,  3  minutes. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Anaya,  Rudolfo  A.,  and  Francisco  Lomeli,  eds.  Atzlan   Essays  on  the 
Chicano  Homeland.  Albuquerque,  New  Mexico:  Academia/El  Norte 
Publications,  1989. 

Muhoz,  Carlos,  Jr.  Youth,  Identity,  Power:  The  Chicano  Movement. 
London:  Verso,  1989. 

Noriega,  Chon.  Working  Bibliography  of  Critical  Writings  on  Chicanos  and 
Film  (Working  Bibliography  Series,  no.  6).  Stanford,  California:  Mexican- 
American  Collections,  Stanford  University  Libranes,  1990. 

Ybarra-Frausto,  Tbmas.  "Rasquachismo:  A  Chicano  Sensibility"  In 
Chicano  Art:  Resistance  and  Affirmation,  1965-1985  (exhibition 
catalogue).  Los  Angeles:  Wight  Art  Gallery,  University  of  California, 
1990. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11 :  00-5 :  00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


;r 


IL 


Copyright  c  1991  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


jj    Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  57 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


The  Return  of  Visual  Pleasure 


January  30-February  17,  1991 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  February  12  at  6:30. 
Lucinda  Furlong  will  be  present. 


In  her  highly  influential  1975  essay,  "Visual  Pleasure  and 
Narrative  Cinema,"  Laura  Mulvey  used  psychoanalytic  the- 
ory to  examine  the  unconscious  processes  that  control  how 
the  spectator  derives  pleasure  from  the  cinema.  Mulvey 
asserted  that  looking  at  a  classic  Hollywood  narrative  film — 
a  "hermetically  sealed  world  which  unwinds  magically" — is 
a  fundamentally  voyeunstic  activity. *  Central  to  this  activa- 
tion of  "visual  pleasure"  is  the  proposition  that  women 
function  as  passive  objects  of  the  active,  controlling  male 
gaze.  Subjected  to  the  voyeuristic  and  sadistic  impulses  of 
male  fantasy,  "they  exist  simply  to  fulfill  the  desires  and 
express  the  anxieties  of  the  men  in  the  audience."2  The 
women  in  the  audience,  thus  robbed  of  the  opportunity  for 
visual  pleasure,  have  perforce  only  a  masochistic  relation  to 
cinema,  since  they  can  only  identify  with  female  screen 
icons  as  victims  of  patriarchy. 

In  offering  an  explanation  for  the  "alternate  misogyny  and 
idealization  of  cinema's  female  representations,"3  Mulvey 
set  the  agenda  for  subsequent  feminist  film  scholarship.  She 
also  precipitated  a  rigorous  feminist  avant-garde  practice 
whose  purpose  was  to  disrupt  and  "deconstruct"  the  con- 
ventional narrative  codes  that  constitute  this  patriarchal 
vision.  Such  films,  including  Mulvey's  own  Riddles  of  the 
Sphinx  (1977),  produced  with  Peter  Wollen,  were  intended 
as  a  "total  negation  of  the  ease  and  plenitude  of  the  narra- 
tive fiction  film."4 

Historically,  this  critique  of  narrative  illusionism — which 
used  many  of  the  formal  strategies  of  traditional  male  avant- 
garde  cinema — represented  a  shift  away  from  the  "positive" 
images  presented  in  feminist  political  documentaries  of  the 
early  1970s.  Indeed,  as  many  feminists  argued,  Mulvey's 
position  was  essentially  negative.  Her  critique  of  the  domi- 
nant system  of  representation,  while  valuable,  left  no  room 
for  a  female  vision  or  an  explicitly  feminist  subjectivity 

Nor  did  it  take  into  account  the  range  of  positions  of 
identification  that  a  spectator  might  assume  in  viewing  a 
film — as  a  female,  as  a  woman  of  color,  as  a  member  of  a 
particular  class,  age,  ethmc  group,  and/or  as  a  lesbian — or 
the  possibility  that  a  film  could  address  the  spectator  in 
multiple  ways.  For  instance,  in  Dry  Kisses  Only  (1990),  Jane 
Cottis  and  Kaucyila  Brooke  show  how  some  Hollywood 
films  can  be  read  "across  the  grain,"  offering  lesbian  sub- 
texts to  conventional  plots  and  female  characters.  Christine 


She  Must  Be  Seeing  Things  (1987),  Sheila  McLaughlin. 

Gledhill  uses  the  term  "negotiation"  to  suggest  the  impos- 
sibility of  fixing  a  singular  meaning  or  point  of  identification 
in  a  film  as  well  as  the  complexity  of  the  process.  "Meaning 
is  neither  imposed,  nor  passively  imbibed,  but  arises  out  of 
a  struggle  or  negotiation  between  competing  frames  of 
reference,  motivation  and  experience."5 

The  films  in  this  exhibition  offer  what  Gledhill  has  called 
"pleasurable  negotiations,"  works  that  struggle  with  repre- 
sentation and  assume  a  multiplicity  of  identities.  Produced 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  m  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  Consolidated  Edison 
Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman-Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and  Catherine  T 
MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Reed  Foundation,  Inc.,  the  Billy  Rose  Foundation,  Inc.,  the  Film  and  Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American 
Art,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Two  Lies  (1989),  Pam  Ibm. 


during  the  past  ten  years,  they  address  the  need  articulated 
by  Teresa  de  Lauretis  to  not  merely  "destroy  or  disrupt  man- 
centered  vision,  by  representing  its  blind  spots,  its  gaps  or 
its  repressed,"6  but  to  create  feminine  or  feminist  visions. 
That  these  films  do  so  through  narrative  poses  a  significant 
challenge  to  Mulvey's  theory  since  they  reclaim  the  notion  of 
visual  pleasure  for  women,  and,  to  borrow  from  de  Lauretis' 
terminology,  embrace  differences  "within"  women. 

Lizzie  Borden's  Born  in  Flames  (1983)  directly  confronts 
the  limitations  of  the  liberal  feminist  agenda  that  articulated 
the  issue  of  "difference"  strictly  in  terms  of  male/female 
heterosexuality  As  a  fast-paced  narrative  with  a  good  dose 
of  humor,  Born  in  Flames  reveals  the  degree  to  which  femi- 
nism is  highly  factionalized  and  bound  by  issues  of  race  and 
class.  The  film's  action  takes  place  ten  years  after  a  revolu- 
tion in  the  US;  women,  who  played  a  major  role  in  that 
revolution,  remain  second-class  citizens.  Their  empower- 
ment is  achieved  through  concerted  action:  at  the  film's 
climax,  a  group  of  women  with  vastly  different  social,  eco- 
nomic, racial,  and  sexual  identities  unite  to  blow  up  the 
antenna  atop  the  World  Trade  Center. 

Yvonne  Rainer's  The  Man  Who  Envied  Women  (1985) 
foregrounds  the  seduction  of  narrative  and  how  cinema 
inscribes  women  within  its  spectacle.  Although  there  is  no 
plot  per  se,  the  film  follows  Jack  Deller,  a  philandering  aca- 
demic who  eavesdrops  on  the  intimate  conversations  bet- 
ween people  on  the  street  with  a  pair  of  headset  micro- 
phones. But  the  film's  point  of  view  is  that  of  Jack's  ex-wife, 
Trisha;  paradoxically,  she  never  actually  appears  in  the  film, 
although  it  is  infused  with  her  presence  through  the  use  of 
voice-over. 

Rainer  presents  narrativity — the  process  of  constructing 
a  coherent  story  from  the  cinematic  text — as  a  gendered 
activity,  and  speculates  on  the  possibility  of  the  woman  as 
narrator  and  as  subject.  She  does  so  through  a  variety  of 
formal  means:  Trisha's  absence/presence;  Jack's  role  as 
played  by  two  actors;  narrative  seduction  presented  in 
scenes  of  actual  seduction.  While  these  strategies  frustrate 
or  destroy  the  narrative  coherence  of  the  "master  text,"  they 
also  offer  the  viewer  the  opportunity  to  identify  not  with  the 
characters  on  screen  but  with  the  female  "voice"  behind 
the  film. 


Perhaps  the  most  explicit  challenges  to  the  equation  of 
visual  pleasure  with  masculine  desire  are  lesbian  narra- 
tives, most  notably  Su  Friedrich's  Damned  If  You  Don't  and 
Sheila  McLaughlin's  feature  film  She  Must  Be  Seeing  Things, 
both  produced  in  1987.  Though  stylistically  different,  they 
radically  rewrite  the  terms  of  cinematic  voyeurism  and  con- 
ventional male-centered  seduction  stories.  She  Must  Be  See- 
ing Things  is  the  story  of  Agatha,  a  Brazilian-born  lawyer, 
and  Jo,  an  independent  filmmaker.  Both  women  have  active 
fantasies,  but  while  Jo's  are  realized  in  her  films,  Agatha  has 
a  paranoid  obsession  that  Jo  might  be  having  affairs  with 
men.  She  Must  Be  Seeing  Things  is  one  of  the  first  American 
feminist  films  that  doesn't  center  around  the  oppression  of 
women.  Instead,  through  the  parallel  development  of  the 
respective  plots  of  the  film  and  Jo's  film-within-the-film, 
McLaughlin  plays  with  traditional  cinematic  conventions  of 
romance  and  fantasy. 

Damned  If  You  Don't,  Friedrich's  most  "narrative"  film, 
also  includes  a  film-within-the  film  and  focuses  on  obses- 
sion and  seduction — that  of  a  young  nun  by  a  woman  who 
lives  near  the  convent.  The  film  opens  with  the  woman 
lounging  in  front  of  a  TV  watching  Michael  Powell  and 
Emeric  Pressburger's  1947  film  Black  Narcissus,  which  pits 
a  "good"  nun  against  a  "bad"  nun.  Both  women  are  at- 
tracted to  the  same  man,  but  the  "bad"  nun  acts  on  her 
desire  and  is  punished  for  it  at  the  film's  conclusion  when 
she  is  pushed  off  a  cliff  by  the  "good"  nun.  Friedrich  links 
this  story  to  a  tradition  of  popular  myths  about  nuns  and 
sex  by  adding  a  female  voice-over  who  reads  excerpts  from 
Immodest  Acts,  an  account  of  a  seventeenth-century  ab- 
bess accused  of  a  lesbian  relationship.  At  the  end  of  the 
film,  Friedrich's  nun,  unlike  the  nun  in  the  Powell  film, 
discovers  the  pleasure  of  breaking  the  rules. 

Ela  Troyano  and  Ana  Marie  Simo's  short  film  How  to  Kill 
Her  (1989)  also  thematizes  obsession  in  the  story  of  a  wo- 
man's attempts  to  exorcize  the  memory  of  Elsa,  a  former 
lover.  The  black-and-white  film  has  a  moody  quality  as  the 
woman  wanders  the  streets  of  New  York  thinking  up  var- 
ious ways  to  commit  the  murder. 

Recently,  younger  filmmakers  have  explored  the  formation 
of  lesbian  identities  in  childhood.  In  Age  12:  Love  with  a 
Little  L  (1990),  Jennifer  Montgomery  locates  this  process  in 
the  psychoanalytic  realm  of  the  symbolic.  She  juxtaposes  a 
voice-over  explanation  of  a  theory  of  Jacques  Lacan  with 
recollections  of  childhood  sex  games  and  her  relationship 
with  a  grammar  school  girls'  clique.  While  Montgomery 
borrows  from  psychoanalytic  theory,  she  doesn't  take  it  too 
seriously.  She  humorously  enacts  dominant  and  submissive 
behavior  using  a  children's  book  about  wolves  which  states 
that  fights  between  females  typically  end  with  a  gesture  of 
submission.  The  raw  emotion  of  Sadie  Benning's  voice-over 
in  Welcome  to  Normal  (1990)  is  matched  by  a  powerful 
recontextualization  of  home  movie  footage  of  children.  At 
the  end  of  the  film,  Benning  muses:  "I  wonder ...  I  wonder, 
how  many  lesbians  were  born  today.  One  identity  robbed  is 
one  too  many."  Christine  Vachoris  The  Way  of  the  Wicked 
(1989)  presents  a  humorous  reversal  of  the  "bad  girl"  stereo- 
type. Two  women  "rescue"  a  little  girl  from  a  first  commu- 
nion ceremony  after  she  commits  the  ultimate  sacrilege  to 


the  Catholic  faith — taking  the  consecrated  host  out  of  her 
mouth.  The  film  has  an  obvious  lesbian  subtext;  the  girl, 
who  is  already  well  on  her  way  to  damnation,  presumably 
will  grow  up  to  commit  other  "immodest  acts." 

If  gender  is  a  social  construction,  so  too  is  race.  Both  Julie 
Dash's  Illusions  (1982)  and  Pam  Tom's  Two  Lies  (1989)  are 
about  women  who  feel  the  need  to  disguise  or  alter  their 
appearance  to  be  accepted  in  white,  (male)  American  soci- 
ety. In  Illusions,  Mignon  Dupree,  a  light-skinned  black  wo- 
man passes  for  white  in  order  to  succeed  as  an  executive  at 
a  Hollywood  studio  during  World  War  n.  She  salvages  a 
soon-to-be-released  film  with  a  faulty  sound  track  by  hiring 
a  gifted,  young  black  singer  to  lip  synch  over  scenes  origi- 
nally sung  by  a  white  movie  star.  The  layers  of  illusion  are 
multiple.  Because  she  is  black,  the  singer  must  remain  invis- 
ible; only  her  disembodied  voice  finds  its  way  into  the  film- 
within-the-film.  The  singer  recognizes  Mignon  as  black,  but 
doesn't  let  the  secret  out. 

In  Two  Lies,  a  divorced  Chinese-born  mother  living  in 
southern  California  with  two  daughters  has  surgery  on  her 
eyelids  to  make  herself  more  attractive — i.e.,  more  Western- 
looking — to  Caucasian  men.  Initially,  she  is  scorned  by  her 
teenage  daughter,  who  equates  her  mother's  action  with 
the  cultural  inauthenticity  of  a  fake  Pueblo  tourist  attraction 
that  the  family  visits. 

The  climactic  moment  in  both  films  occurs  when  the 
other  female  characters  "see"  through  the  women's  respec- 
tive efforts  to  conceal  their  ethnic  identities.  But  unlike  the 


Age  12:  Love  with  a  Little  L  (1990),  Jennifer  Montgomery. 


male  character  in  Illusions,  who  spurns  Mignon  upon  learn- 
ing that  she  is  black  (all  the  more  ironic  given  her  earlier 
rejection  of  his  repeated  sexual  advances),  the  female  char- 
acters are  ultimately  sympathetic  to  the  necessity  of  dis- 
guise as  a  means  of  survival  in  white  patriarchal  culture. 
Both  Illusions  and  Two  Lies — in  the  latter,  it  is  the  eyes  that 
are  altered — are  about  seeing,  about  how  women  see  them- 
selves, and  how  they  are  seen  by  others. 

Narrative  film  has  proven  to  be  fertile  ground  for  women 
seeking  ways  of  asserting,  confirming,  or  challenging  a 
multiplicity  of  identities.  Acknowledging  that  the  construc- 
tion of  identity  is  a  continual  and  fluid  process,  not  fixed,  is  a 
preoccupation  of  a  number  of  filmmakers.  Peggy  Ahwesh's 
Martina's  Playhouse  (1989)  opens  with  footage  of  richly 
colorful  flowers — a  symbol  of  femininity — while  a  voice- 
over  reads  from  Jacques  Lacan  on  symbolic  displacement. 
Ahwesh  intercuts  this  with  a  series  of  other  displacements 
— the  play-acting  of  the  young  child  Martina  with  her 
mother  and  scenes  of  a  very  self-conscious  friend — that  call 
into  question  the  authority  of  Lacaris  text. 

The  impossibility  of  truly  knowing  the  subject  is  articu- 
lated in  Lynne  Tillman  and  Sheila  McLaughlin's  Committed 
(1984)  a  fiction  film  based  on  the  life  of  Frances  Farmer.  The 
actress'  pro-Communist  leanings  and  "bad"  behavior — she 
drank  and  used  foul  language — landed  her  in  a  mental 
hospital  where  she  was  eventually  lobotomized.  Tillman 
and  McLaughlin  construct  a  fictional  character  (played  by 
McLaughlin)  whose  life  was  shaped  as  much  by  social  and 
political  forces  as  by  the  psyche.  Although  ultimately  de- 
stroyed by  the  combined  weight  of  the  law  psychiatry, 
Hollywood,  anti-Communist  hysteria,  and  her  mother,  this 
victim  goes  down  swinging;  she  is  thus  rendered  with  a 
complexity  missing  from  Frances  (1982),  the  film's  Holly- 
wood counterpart. 

Alile  Sharon  Larkin  and  Zeinabu  Irene  Davis  conjure  up 
identities  rooted  in  African  and  Caribbean  culture.  In 
Larkiris  A  Different  Image  (1981),  a  young  black  woman 
struggles  with  sexism  when  she  refuses  to  be  objectified 
by  male  desire.  She  looks  to  African  images  and  rituals  as 
models  rather  than  to  the  demeaning  stereotypes  of  Ameri- 
can media.  More  akin  to  experimental  film  than  narrative, 
Davis'  Cycles  (1989)  is  a  celebration  of  black  womanhood.  In 
the  film,  which  is  moved  along  as  much  by  the  musical 
sound  track  of  women's  voices  and  African  and  Caribbean 
music  as  by  the  images,  a  woman  cleans  her  house  and 
cleanses  her  body  while  awaiting  the  onset  of  her  men- 
strual cycle.  During  sleep,  her  dreams  are  repeatedly  punc- 
tuated by  a  voice  which  intones,  almost  like  a  mantra, 
"You're  doing  OK  and  you're  gonna  get  better." 

Although  Trinh  T  Minh-ha's  feature-length  Surname 
Viet:  Given  NameNam  (1989)  is  ostensibly  a  documentary,  it 
unfolds  as  a  richly  textured  epic  narrative  poem  chronicling 
the  oppression  of  Vietnamese  women.  Its  visual  beauty  and 
deliberate  pacing  permits  the  accumulation  of  details  that 
slowly  build  as  a  narrative.  Trinh's  use  of  archival  footage, 
Vietnamese  poetry,  song,  and  dance  is  anchored  by  a  series 
of  interviews  reenacted  by  Vietnamese  actresses.  This  de- 
vice is  an  implicit  acknowledgment  of  the  power  of  storytell- 
ing as  well  as  the  limitations  of  documentary.  Ironically,  it  is 


The  Man  Who  Envied  Women  (1985),  Yvonne  Rainer. 


through  such  narrative  means  that  Trinh  powerfully  con- 
veys the  sense  that  these  women  are  giving  voice  for  the 
first  time  to  their  oppression,  which  continues  despite  the 
country's  changed  political  structure. 

As  in  Mulvey's  groundbreaking  essay,  feminist  theories 
based  on  psychoanalysis  have  lodged  powerful  critiques  of 
patriarchal  systems  of  representation.  However,  the  institu- 
tionalization of  these  discourses  within  the  academy  and 
resultant  emphasis  on  Hollywood  cinema  has  effectively 
produced  a  gap  between  feminist  film  theory  and  feminist 
filmmaking.  In  moving  away  from  an  exclusively  decon- 
structivist  critique  of  dominant  cinema,  the  films  in  this 
exhibition  don't  all  explicitly  illustrate  a  counter-theory  of 
visual  pleasure.  But  they  do  provide  a  wealth  of  themes  and 
narrative  strategies  to  consider  when  looking  at  women  as 
spectators  and  subjects. 

Lucinda  Furlong 

Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Notes 

1.  Laura  Mulvey,  "Visual  Pleasure  and  Narrative  Cinema,"  Screen,  16, 

(Autumn  1975),  p.  9. 
2  Tama  Modleski,  The  Women  Who  Knew  Too  Much:  Hitchcock  and 

Feminist  Theory  (New  York:  Methuen,  1988),  p  2 
3.  Christine  GledhiU,  "Pleasurable  Negotiations,"  in  Female  Spectators: 

Looking  at  Film  and  Television,"  E.  Deidre  Pribram,  ed.  (New  York: 

Verso,  1988),  p.  66. 
4  Mulvey,  p.  8. 

5.  Gledhill,  p.  68. 

6.  Teresa  de  Lauretis,  "Aesthetic  and  Film  Theory:  Rethinking  Women's 
Cinema,"  New  German  Critique,  no.  34  (Winter  1985),  p.  163. 


Sunday,  February  3  at  2:00 
Wednesday,  February  6  at  2:00 

The  Man  Who  Envied  Women  (1985),  Yvonne  Rainer.  130  minutes. 

Tuesday,  February  5  at  2:00 
Saturday,  February  9  at  2:00 

How  to  Kill  Her  (1989),  Produced  by  Ela  Troyano,  directed  by  Ana 

Maria  Simo.  Black-and-white,  15  minutes. 
She  Must  Be  Seeing  Things  (1987),  Sheila  McLaughlin.  95  minutes. 

Tuesday,  February  5  at  6:00 
Thursday,  February  7  at  2:00 

Age  12:  Love  with  a  Little  L  (1990),  Jennifer  Montgomery.  Super-8 

film,  23  minutes. 
Wfeicome  to  Normal  (1990),  Sadie  Benrung.  3 4"  videotape  (originated 

in  regular  8mm  film  and  Video-8),  19  minutes. 
The  Way  of  the  Wicked  (1989),  Christine  Vachon.  15  minutes. 
Damned  If  You  Don't  (1987),  Su  Friedrich.  Black-and-white, 

42  minutes. 

Friday,  February  8  at  2:00 
Sunday,  February  10  at  2:00 

Illusions  (1982),  Julie  Dash.  Black-and-white,  34  minutes. 
Two  Lies  (1989),  Pam  Tom.  Black-and-white,  25  minutes. 

Tuesday,  February  12  at  5:00 
Saturday,  February  16  at  2:00 

A  Different  Image  (1981),  Alile  Sharon  Larkin.  51  minutes. 
Cycles  (1989),  Zeinabu  Irene  Davis.  Black-and-white,  17  minutes. 

Tuesday,  February  12  at  2:00 
Friday,  February  15  at  2:00 

Martina's  Playhouse  (1989),  Peggy  Ahwesh.  Super-8  film,  20  minutes. 
Committed  (1984),  Lynne  Tillman  and  Sheila  McLaughlin.  Black-and- 
white,  77  minutes. 

Wednesday,  February  13  at  2:00 
Sunday,  February  17  at  2:00 

Surname  Viet:  Given  Name  Nam  (1989),  Trinh  T.  Minh-ha. 
108  minutes. 


Selected  Bibliography 

Citron,  Michelle,  Julia  Lesage,  Judith  Mayne,  B.  Ruby  Rich  and  Anna 

Mane  Taylor.  "Women  and  Film:  A  Discussion  of  Feminist  Aesthetics." 
New  German  Critique,  13  (Winter  1978),  pp.  83-107 

de  Lauretis,  Teresa,  lechnologies  of  Gender:  Essays  on  Theory,  Film,  and 
Fiction  Bloomington  and  Indianapolis:  Indiana  University  Press,  1987. 

Gever,  Martha.  "Girl  Crazy:  Lesbian  Narratives  in  She  Must  Be  Seeing 
Things  and  Damned  If  You  Don't."  The  Independent,  11  (July  1988),  pp. 
14-18. 

Mayne,  Judith.  "Feminist  Film  Theory  and  Criticism."  Signs:  Journal  of 
Women  in  Culture  and  Society,  11  (Autumn  1985),  pp.  81-100. 

Mulvey,  Laura.  "Afterthoughts  on  'Visual  Pleasure  and  Narrative  Cin- 
ema.'" Framework,  nos.  15-17  (1981),  pp.  12-15. 

Williams,  Linda.  "When  the  Woman  Looks."  In  Mary  Ann  Doane,  Patricia 
Mellencamp,  and  Linda  Williams,  eds.,  Re-Vision:  Essays  in  Feminist 
Film  Criticism  (The  American  Film  Institute  Series,  vol.  3).  Frederick, 
Maryland:  University  Publications  of  America,  1984,  pp.  83-99. 


Schedule 

All  works  are  16mm  films,  color,  and  sound,  unless  otherwise  noted. 

Wednesday,  January  30  at  2:00 
Friday,  February  1  at  2:00 

Dry  Kisses  Only  (1990),  Jane  Cottis  and  Kaucyila  Brooke. 
W  videotape,  75  minutes. 

Thursday,  January  31  at  2:00 
Saturday,  February  2  at  2:00 

Bom  in  Flames  (1983),  Lizzie  Borden.  82  minutes. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday- Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  12:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  G)  1991  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  58 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


Bill  Beirne 


September  24-November  10,  1991 


You  Connect  the  Dots  .  .  .  ,  1991 

Video  installation.  On  view  continuously. 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  October  22  at  6:30. 
Bill  Beirne  will  be  present. 


Components 

4  video  monitors;  4  video  playback  decks;  4  %"  videotapes,  color, 
sound,  30  minutes  each.  Video  surveillance  system,  video  projector. 
Desk,  chair,  plastic  carpet  guard,  shelving,  and  books. 

Videotape  credits 

Street  performances:  associate  producer,  Ka  Lai  Wong.  Director,  Ver- 
onica L.  Beirne.  Castmg  director,  Judd  Silverman.  Production  crew: 
Cynthia  DeLRosario,  Catherine  Grasso,  Tony  Kunin,  Ka  Lai  Wong.  Pro- 
duction assistant,  Jennifer  Beirne.  Special  thanks  to  Allison  Brunell 
and  Mary  Ryzuk.  Performers:  Jennifer  Beirne,  Mum  Bensinger,  Rich- 
ard Browner,  Carol  Cayton,  David  Comstock,  John  Alban  Coughlan, 
John  Daggett,  Elaine  Dooman,  Mary  Pat  Dowhy,  Herb  DuVal,  Marvm 
Halpern,  Dan  Johnson,  Mary  Krapf,  Mort  Kroos,  Anne  Lilly,  Alice 
Mahler,  Charles  Maryan,  DeLaune  Michel,  Annette  Maxberry,  Jeff 
Oppenheim,  Mary  Ryzuk,  John  Schucker,  Diane  Schultz,  Judd  Silver- 
man, Barry  Steely,  Evelyn  Tuths,  Ken  Williams. 
Decent  interviews :  associate  producers,  Toby  Martinez  and  Ka  Lai 
Wong.  Special  thanks  to  Michael  Sheehan,  Carlos  Perrone,  Kevm  Cur- 
ran,  Fleurette  Vincent,  and  St.  John's  University  TV  Center,  Flushing, 
New  York.  Docents :  Vivian  Bobka,  Annette  Elvy,  Marianne  Flack, 
Jan  Hartley,  Leslie  Heiner,  Carl  Palusci,  Elise  Pustilnik,  Amy  Winter. 


Bill  Beirne's  You  Connect  the  Dots  .  .  .  (1991),  together  with 
his  earlier  video  installation  Rumor  &  Innuendo  (1979),  con- 
stitute an  insightful  epistemological  reflection  on  the  mu- 
seum. Central  to  Beirne's  installations  is  his  concern  with 
how  we  observe,  understand,  and  interpret  the  world 
around  us.  His  projects  focus  on  some  aspect  of  daily  life 
through  the  manipulation  of  point-of-view,  both  through  the 
optic  of  closed-circuit  video  surveillance  and  the  narrative 
text  of  performance.  The  practices  and  structure  of  the 
museum  become,  in  Rumor  &  Innuendo  and  You  Connect 
the  Dots  .  .  .  ,  metaphors  for  our  ongoing  negotiation  of  the 
public  and  private  spaces  of  contemporary  urban  life. 

A  pioneer  in  the  use  of  video  surveillance,  Beirne  has 
explored  the  theme  of  negotiation  in  earlier  works.  Cross 
Reference  (1976)  used  the  camera  as  an  observing  instru- 
ment by  linking  it  to  live  transmission  on  cable  television.  In 
The  Commuter  (1986-89)  Beirne  situated  himself  as  the 
prototypical  commuter  in  performances  he  did  along  a  com- 
muter railroad  route,  coming  and  going  from  Manhattan  to 
the  suburbs  through  the  neighborhoods  of  the  South  Bronx. 


You  Connect  the  Dots  .    .  (1991). 


The  perceptions  of  the  people  seeing  the  trains  are  juxta- 
posed with  images  of  the  train  and  of  Beirne's  performance. 

In  Rumor  &  Innuendo,  a  site-specific  project  created  for 
the  Whitney  Museum  exhibition  "Re- Visions:  Projects  and 
Proposals  in  Film  and  Video"  (1979),  Beirne  placed  four 
video  cameras  and  four  microphones  in  six  public  spaces 
and  two  offices  of  the  Museum.  The  audio  and  video  compo- 
nents were  transmitted  to  four  monitors  and  four  speakers 
on  the  Museum's  third  floor,  which  included  installations  by 
other  artists.  During  the  course  of  the  exhibition,  per- 
formers mimicked  the  movements  of  people  on  the  screen 
and  then  themselves  performed  subtly  modified  variations 
on  their  actions.  Thus,  Beirne  blurred  the  boundary  be- 
tween real  and  performed  activity.  He  also  made  us  aware 
of  how  the  building  not  only  defines  and  delimits  the  move- 
ment of  people  from  floor  to  floor,  establishing  social  spaces 
for  people  to  meet,  but  functions  as  a  site  for  consumerism. 

In  You  Connect  the  Dots .  .  . ,  Beime  examines  the  mu- 
seum's role  as  an  educational  institution.  He  scrutinizes  the 
language  employed  by  the  Education  Department's  docents, 
who  take  visitors  through  the  Permanent  Collection,  explor- 
ing the  exhibition  spaces  and  how  they  condition  an  under- 
standing of  the  art  works  on  view.  You  Connect  the  Dots .  .  . 
reveals  that  artists'  biographies  and  the  reading  of  paint  - 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  Consolidated  Edison 
Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and  Catherine  T. 
MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Reed  Foundation,  Inc.,  the  Billy  Rose  Foundation,  Inc.,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc..  the  Film  and 
Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  Susan  and  Arthur  Fleischer,  Toby  Horn  and  Richard  Kandel,  Nancy  Brown  Wellin,  Barbara 
Wise,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


ings  are  an  amalgam  of  fact  and  fiction  similar  to  our  per- 
ception of  people  in  the  street  or  incidents  of  daily  life. 

Upon  entering  the  Film  and  Video  Gallery,  one  confronts  a 
bookshelf  with  books  and  documents  actually  used  by  eight 
docents  to  prepare  their  talks  on  American  art.  Small  moni- 
tors placed  in  this  part  of  the  gallery  display  footage  of  two 
paintings  from  the  Museum's  Permanent  Collection,  accom- 
panied by  a  soundtrack  of  the  docents'  commentary  on  the 
works.  At  the  other  end  of  the  gallery,  on  monitors  placed  on 
opposite  sides  of  the  projection  screen,  we  observe  edited 
videotapes  shot  on  Madison  Avenue  of  performers  reenact- 
ing  conversations  overheard  by  Beime  in  the  neighborhood 
around  the  Museum.  These  conversations  were  adapted  by 
Beirne  into  scripts  for  the  actors. 

Seated  at  a  desk  in  the  gallery,  the  visitor  can  follow  the 
action  of  people  in  the  street  by  manipulating  a  device  that 
controls  the  movement  of  an  actual  surveillance  camera 
outside  the  museum.  This  live  footage  is  projected  onto  the 
screen  in  front  of  the  desk.  In  this  mix  of  real-time  video  and 
enacted  scenes,  Beirne  enfolds  the  spaces  inside  and  out- 
side the  museum;  in  the  process,  he  creates  ambiguity  as  to 
what  is  live  and  what  is  prerecorded.  The  conflation  of  real 
and  imagined  actions  and  desires  sets  up  a  complex  inter- 
active discourse  motivated  by  the  consumption  of  goods, 
experiences,  and  knowledge.  Here  the  rhetoric  of  Madi- 
son Avenue — its  shops  and  restaurants,  galleries  and  real 
estate — is  linked  to  the  presence  of  the  Museum  as  an 
architectural  setting  and  its  role  as  a  forum  for  the  arts.  The 
Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  a  showcase  for  the 
art  of  the  twentieth  century,  becomes  a  stage  for  late 
twentieth-century  public  spaces. 

John  G.  Hanhardt 
Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Artist's  Statement 

You  Connect  the  Dots  .  .  .  began  in  1988  with  a  series  of 
undocumented  street  performances  in  which  I  attempted  to 
overhear  conversations  held  by  people  on  the  streets  sur- 
rounding the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art.  I  tried  to 
transcribe  the  exact  content  of  these  bits  of  information  but 
in  so  doing  had  to  fill  in  several  gaps  created  by  an  unintel- 
ligible word,  the  trailing  off  of  a  sentence,  or  a  lapse  in  my 
memory  as  to  what  was  said.  The  next  step  in  this  process 
occurred  in  the  summer  of  1989  when  I  gave  the  transcripts 
to  a  director  and  twenty- seven  actors  who  attempted  to 
recreate  the  scenes  I  observed,  making  their  own  meaning 
of  these  brief  exchanges.  These  scenes  were  recorded  in  the 
locations  around  the  Museum  where  they  had  originally 
taken  place. 

In  the  winter  of  1988-89, 1  moved  inside  the  Museum  and 
followed  along  on  the  Whitney's  tours  of  the  Permanent 
Collection,  taking  note  of  the  similarities  and  differences  in 
the  docents'  interpretations  of  the  art.  Subseguently,  eight 
docents  were  invited  to  record  their  interpretations  of  two 
works  from  the  collection,  Marsden  Hartley's  Painting, 


Number  5  (1914-15)  and  Arshile  Gorky's  The  Betrothal,  II 
(1947).  Their  comments  all  reflected  a  basic  agreement  in 
terms  of  the  meaning  of  the  works  in  a  larger  context,  but 
many  times  they  differed  in  their  interpretations  of  the  art- 
ists' sources,  intention,  and  motivation.  In  addition  to  their 
comments,  I  asked  the  docents  to  select  books  from  their 
own  collections  which  might  allow  the  viewer  some  insight 
into  their  thinking  process  and  why  they  might  attribute 
certain  meanings  to  the  work.  I  include  these  books  in  the 
installation. 

The  recordings  of  the  street  performances  and  the  inter- 
pretations of  the  two  works  of  art  comprise  two  aspects  of 
You  Connect  the  Dots  ....  A  third  aspect  of  the  work 
involves  the  participation  of  the  gallery  viewer,  who  is  in- 
vited to  control  a  surveillance  camera,  mounted  on  the 
exterior  of  the  Museum,  which  covers  a  large  part  of  the 
original  performance  site.  I  limited  this  aspect  of  the  instal- 
lation to  visual  information,  to  heighten  the  viewer's  experi- 
ence of  activities  seen  in  the  street  and  reinforce  the  notion 
of  attribution  in  human  behavior.  A  logbook  is  available  for 
viewers  to  record  observations  about  what  they  observe. 

Bill  Beirne 


Biography 

Bill  Beirne  was  bom  in  Brooklyn,  New  York,  in  1941.  He  studied  at  Pratt 
Institute,  Brooklyn  (BFA,  1968)  and  Hunter  College,  New  York  (MA,  1974). 
Beirne  has  received  a  grant  from  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts 
(1979)  and  a  fellowship  from  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts  (1980).  He 
currently  teaches  television  production  at  New  York  University  and  has 
taught  philosophy  at  the  Bank  Street  College  of  Education,  New  York  (1991). 
Beirne  is  the  director  of  Video  Ink,  a  television  production  project  that  works 
with  public  school  children  in  the  Bronx.  He  lives  and  works  in  New  York. 

Selected  One- Artist  Exhibitions 

3  Mercer  Street  Store,  New  York,  1975;  A  Space,  Toronto,  1976;  112  Greene 
Street  Gallery,  New  York,  1976;  The  Kitchen,  New  York,  1976;  Anthology 
Film  Archives,  New  York,  1978;  Lehman  College  Art  Gallery,  Bronx,  1990 

Selected  Group  Exhibitions 

Idea  Warehouse,  New  York,  "Ideas  at  the  Idea  Warehouse,"  1975;  Institute  of 
Contemporary  Art,  PS.  1  Museum,  New  York,  "Rooms,"  1976;  DArc  Gallery, 
New  York,  "Video  from  Outside,"  1977;  Artists  Space,  New  York,  "Audio 
Works,"  1978;  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  New  York,  "Re-Visions: 
Projects  and  Proposals  in  Film  and  Video,"  1979;  Elise  Meyer  Gallery.  New 
York,  "Schemes,"  1981  (traveled) ;  The  New  Museum  of  Contemporary  Art, 
New  York,  "Alternatives  in  Retrospect,"  1981;  Museum  of  Fine  Arts,  Santa 
Fe,  "Video  as  Attitude,"  1983;  Fashion  Moda,  Bronx,  "Stefan  Ems'  Salon," 
1986;  Lehman  College  Art  Gallery,  Bronx,  "Visual  AIDS,"  1989. 

Selected  Bibliography 

Beirne,  BUI.  A  Pedestrian  Blockade.  New  York:  Collation  Center  and  Witten- 

born  Books,  1976. 

"Bill  Beime:  Similarities  &  Differences"  Avalanche,  no.  12  (Winter  1975),  p.  8. 

Ehrenfeld,  Shoshona.  "Streetworks  Video."  Film  Library  Quarterly,  12,  no.  4 

(1979),  pp.  33-39. 

Hanhardt,  John  G.  "Understanding  Television."  TV  Magazine,  pilot  issue 

(1980),  pp.  9-11. 

Lippard,  Lucy.  Get  the  Message?  A  Decade  of  Art  for  Social  Change.  New 

York:  E.P.  Dutton,  1984,  pp.  61-62,  64. 

Lord,  Catherine.  "It's  the  Thought  That  Counts."  Afterimage,  11  (October 

1983),  pp.  9-11. 

Wooster,  Ann-Sargent.  "Formerly  Formalist;  Beime  and  Hombacher  Cross 

the  Line  into  Content."  High  Performance,  14  (Summer  1991),  pp.  38-41. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 


Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  11  00-6:00 


Copyi  1  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  59 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


New  Directions  in  Holography 


November  19-December  29, 1991 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  December  17  at  6:30. 
Rene  Paul  Barilleaux  will  be  present. 


Works  in  the  Exhibition 

Dimensions  are  in  inches;  height  precedes  width  precedes  depth. 
All  works  are  lent  courtesy  of  the  artists. 


Rudie  Berkhout 

Born  in  Amsterdam,  1946 

Lives  m  New  York  City  and  Cairo,  New  York 

Kuan  Yin,  1981 

Light,  glass-plate  hologram  with  frame,  12  x  16  x  J4,  on  tripod 

Ukiyo,  1981 

Light,  glass-plate  hologram  with  frame,  12  x  16  x  'A,  on  tripod 

The  New  Territories,  1984 

Lights,  two  glass-plate  holograms,  12  x  16  x  XA  each,  with  frame 

Transfer  339,  1987 

Light,  glass-plate  hologram  with  frame,  12  x  16  x  XA 

Primal  Mix  I,  1988 

Light,  glass-plate  hologram  with  frame,  12  x  16  x  % 

Breakthrough,  1990 

Light,  glass-plate  hologram  with  frame,  12  x  16  x  XA 


Wenyon  &  Gamble 

Susan  Gamble 

Born  m  London,  1957 

Studied  at  the  Winchester  School  of  Art,  England  (1975),  and 

Goldsmiths'  College,  University  of  London  (BA,  1979) 

Michael  Wenyon 

Born  in  Dayton,  Ohio,  1955 

Studied  at  the  University  of  Bristol,  England  (BSc,  1977),  and  Imperial 

College,  University  of  London  (MSc,  1978) 

Wenyon  &  Gamble  currently  live  in  Tsukuba,  Japan 

Stella  Maris,  1989-91 

Lights,  five  glass-plate  holograms,  20  x  24  x  V*  each,  on  wall  with 

specified  lighting 


Breakthrough  (1990),  Rudie  Berkhout. 

The  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art's  first  exhibition  to 
focus  exclusively  on  holography  brings  together  works  by 
three  artists — Rudie  Berkhout  and  the  collaborative  team  of 
Susan  Gamble  and  Michael  Wenyon.  Each  has  a  highly 
personal  artistic  vocabulary  that  can  be  achieved  only 
through  holography,  and  each  extends  the  medium's  basic 
principle  of  three-dimensional  replication  into  altogether 
new  directions. 

Artists  first  made  and  exhibited  holograms  in  the  late 
1960s,  often  working  in  tandem  with  holography  techni- 
cians, scientists,  and  engineers.  The  late  1960s  was  also  a 
period  of  great  experimentation  in  other  technology-based 
media,  for  example,  video  and  audio  art.  During  this  period 
four  artists  publicly  exhibited  holograms  and  focused  atten- 
tion on  the  relatively  new  form — Margaret  Benyon  in 
England,  Harriet  Casdin-Silver  and  Bruce  Nauman  in  the 
United  States,  and  Carl  Fredrik  Reuters  ward  in  Sweden.1 
These  pioneers  established  an  important  cornerstone  on 
which  subsequent  generations  of  artists  working  in  holo- 
graphy, including  Berkhout  and  Wenyon  &  Gamble,  could 
later  build. 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  Consolidated  Edison 
Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and  Catherine  T 
MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Reed  Foundation,  Inc.,  the  Billy  Rose  Foundation,  Inc.,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  the  Film  and 
Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  Susan  and  Arthur  Fleischer,  Jr.,  Toby  Horn  and  Richard  Kandel,  Nancy  Brown  Wellin, 
Barbara  Wise,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


This  exhibition  includes  two  types  of  holograms :  trans- 
mission and  reflection.  A  transmission  hologram  is  a  glass 
plate  (or  piece  of  film)  on  which  an  image  is  recorded  in  a 
light-sensitive  emulsion  using  laser  light.  The  image  is  re- 
vealed by  passing  ordinary  white  light  through  the  plate  or 
film,  and  it  appears  in  space  both  in  front  of  and  behind  the 
surface.  A  reflection  hologram  is  recorded  by  a  similar  pro- 
cess and  reveals  its  three-dimensional  image  in  space  by 
reflecting  light  off  the  surface  of  the  plate  or  film.  All  holo- 
grams are  variations  of  these  two  basic  types.  In  "New 
Directions  in  Holography,"  Rudie  Berkhout  presents  white 
light  transmission  holograms  while  Wenyon  &  Gamble  use 
the  reflection  method. 

These  artists  approach  holography  from  a  formalist 
standpoint,  engaged  by  the  unique  optical  and  perceptual 
aspects  of  the  medium  rather  than  by  its  ability  to  give  the 
illusion  of  a  solid  object.  And  while  Berkhout  typically  pre- 
sents his  finished  holograms  in  a  minimal,  spare  presenta- 
tion, mounted  on  tripods  or  suspended  from  overhead, 
Wenyon  &  Gamble  often  extend  the  holographic  image  into 
real  space  through  the  use  of  site- specific  architectural 
elements  such  as  false  walls,  two-dimensional  imagery  cre- 
ated with  slide  projections,  and/or  theatrical  lighting 
effects. 

Rudie  Berkhout  was  first  introduced  to  holography  in  1975 
when  he  attended  a  now  historic  survey  exhibition  of  holo- 
grams at  New  York  City's  International  Center  of  Photogra- 
phy, organized  by  Rosemary  Jackson  and  Jody  Burns.  Jack- 
son later  founded  the  Museum  of  Holography  in  New  York  to 
serve  as  a  focal  point  for  work  in  the  field.  Berkhout  was 
immediately  drawn  to  this  new  imaging  process,  finding  in 
holography  the  "possibility  of  working  with  advanced  tech- 
nology outside  a  corporate  structure  and  exploring  it  as  an 
art  medium.  .  .  ."2 

After  initial  investigations  using  representational  subject 
matter,  Berkhout  experimented  with  abstract  and  geomet- 
ric imagery.  The  holograms  that  resulted  established  him  as 
one  of  the  preeminent  artists  using  holography.  Not  only  has 


he  mastered  the  methods  for  creating  his  own  holograms, 
but  he  has  also  developed  new  holographic  processes,  such 
as  a  multicolor  technique,  which  he  incorporated  into  his 
work  and  have  influenced  the  work  of  other  artists. 

The  six  works  comprising  this  selection  span  the  past 
decade,  tracing  Berkhout' s  development  from  early  images 
characterized  by  crisp  forms  and  vivid  hues  to  more  recent 
ones  whose  subtle  palette  creates  ethereal  compositions. 
Kuan  Yin  and  Ukiyo  (both  1981)  are  intentionally  direct  in 
their  concept  and  intense  in  their  color.  They  express 
Berkhout's  interest  in  "keeping  the  compositions  simple  .  .  . 
leaving  enough  space  to  invite  viewers  to  wander  in  and 
contemplate  'unfamiliar  realms.'  "3  These  artificial,  syn- 
thetic realms  or  spaces  exist  only  as  projections  of  light 
images.  Their  compositional  elements  seem  to  extend  out 
into  real  space  and  even  intrude  on  the  viewer.  Both  Kuan 
Yin,  named  for  the  Chinese  goddess  of  mercy  and  joy,  and 
Ukiyo,  or  "floating  world,"  express  Berkhout's  ongoing  inter- 
est in  Eastern  philosophy,  aesthetics,  and  mysticism. 

The  diptych  entitled  The  New  Territories  (1984)  abandons 
the  purely  geometric  and  non-objective  compositions  of 
these  earlier  holograms  and  derives  its  subject  from  the 
landscape.  The  title  suggests  not  only  the  vast  plains  open- 
ing up  before  the  viewer,  but  refers  as  well  to  the  medium  of 
holography  itself.  (The  diptych  configuration  also  recalls  an 
early  historical  attempt  at  three-dimensional  recording — 
stereographs.)  Transfer  339  (1987),  a  transitional  work,  uses 
two  scroll-like  bands  that  push  forcefully  through  the  holo- 
gram's surface,  in  some  way  recalling  a  landscape.  In  this 
sense,  they  function  as  paths  or  roads  deep  into  the  work's 
core.  More  mysterious  and  brooding  than  The  New  Territo- 
ries, Transfer  339  leaves  behind  the  playfulness  of  its  prede- 
cessor to  take  the  viewer  on  what  appears  to  be  an  unend- 
ing journey. 

The  two  remaining  works,  Primal  Mix  I  (1988)  and  Break- 
through (1990),  illustrate  Berkhout's  shift  back  to  more  ab- 
stract imagery  while  still  employing  modulated  color.  No 
longer  constrained  by  precise  geometric  forms  or  repeated 


Ukiyo  (1981),  Rudie  Berkhout. 


Transfer  339  (1987),  Rudie  Berkhout. 


Stella  Mans  (1989-91),  Wenyon  &  Gamble.  Installation  at  Centre  Nationale  Art  et  Technologie,  Reims,  France. 


elements,  the  imagery  in  these  more  recent  works  pushes  at 
the  physical  constraints  created  by  the  perimeters  of  the 
holographic  plate,  and  offers  expansive,  multilevel  realities. 

Susan  Gamble  and  Michael  Wenyon  pursued  holography 
individually  prior  to  their  first  collaboration  in  1983.  In  their 
recent  body  of  works,  which  includes  one  on  exhibition  here, 
Wenyon  &  Gamble  explore  ideas  involving  the  history  of 
optics  and  its  relationship  to  astronomy,  ideas  which  devel- 
oped during  a  1987  residency  at  the  Royal  Greenwich  Obser- 
vatory in  England.4  In  this  series,  simple,  direct  subjects 
take  on  enigmatic  qualities  when  they  are  placed  in  an 
installation  that  includes  elements  ranging  from  slide  pro- 
jections of  black-and-white  photographic  images  to  dra- 
matic atmospheric  effects  produced  with  colored  lights. 

Stella  Mans  (1989-91)  is  among  the  final  results  of  the 
Observatory  residency.  Like  other  installations  from  the  se- 
ries, including  Newton's  Rings  (1987),  Airy's  Discs  (1988), 
The  Heavens  (1989),  and  Radii  (1989-91),  this  work  exam- 
ines several  basic  principles  of  optical  phenomena  similar  to 
those  examined  by  Sir  Isaac  Newton  in  the  late  seventeenth 
and  early  eighteenth  centuries  and  Sir  George  Airy  during 


the  Victorian  era.  To  extend  the  concepts  explored  by  the 
holographic  imagery,  the  artists  completed  the  installations 
in  this  series  with  other  light-based  materials,  borrowing 
imagery  and  techniques  from  cinema  and  the  theater;  the 
finished  installations  can  be  read  like  stage  sets  or  tableaux. 

The  imagery  in  Stella  Maris  reveals  light  patterns  known 
as  "caustics."  Conceptually,  Stella  Maris  and  the  related 
work  Radii  treat  broader  issues  such  as  the  subjective  and 
relative  versus  the  absolute,  and  contemporary  scientific 
exploration  versus  a  Victorian  worldview.5 

An  important  element  of  works  from  the  Observatory 
series  is  their  self- referential  nature:  they  investigate  ideas 
about  the  medium  of  holography  itself,  including  its  connec- 
tions to  the  history  of  science,  its  physical  manifestations, 
and  its  phenomenological  aura.  By  grounding  their  subjects 
in  the  concepts  of  scientific  study,  Wenyon  &  Gamble  cohe- 
sively link  these  ideas  to  the  objects  they  create.  Mounted 
on  a  freestanding  wall,  the  holograms  (in  this  case  reflec- 
tion holograms)  appear  as  windows  onto  some  other  world. 
Although  the  wall's  height,  width,  and  depth  are  clearly 
visible  and  even  calculable,  the  holograms  transcend  the 


physical  limitations  of  this  space  and  reveal  even  larger, 
deeper  images.  Colored  ambient  light  enhances  their  other- 
worldly qualities.  Optics  and  its  theories  represent  the 
source  material  used  to  make  the  holograms,  but  even  with- 
out this  knowledge  the  viewer  gains  a  sense  of  wonder  at 
the  phenomena  of  our  physical  environment. 

Artists  will  continue  to  create  with  new,  non-traditional 
materials  and  processes.  It  is  important  to  come  to  each 
work  of  art  on  its  own  terms  rather  than  bring  to  it  a 
preformed  attitude.  As  the  artists  in  "New  Directions  in 
Holography"  demonstrate,  the  medium  often  requires  re- 
learning  how  to  look  at  a  work  of  art.  While  we  are  typically 
trained  to  intellectually  perceive  the  illusion  of  three  dimen- 


sions in  two-dimensional  works,  holography  allows  the 
viewer  to  actually  see  three-dimensional  space.  We  no 
longer  need  devices  like  foreshortening  or  reflected  light  to 
help  us  visualize  depth  and  volume.  Still,  the  inherent  phe- 
nomenal nature  of  the  medium  often  mystifies  an  art  audi- 
ence and  increases  the  distance  between  the  three- 
dimensional  image  and  the  viewer.  Rudie  Berkhout  and 
Wenyon  &  Gamble  attempt  to  decrease  that  distance  by 
extending  their  holographic  images  into  the  gallery  space 
and  directly  engaging  the  viewers. 

Rene  Paul  Barilleaux 
Guest  Curator 


Notes 

*I  would  like  to  acknowledge  the  editorial  assistance  of  Kathryn  Howarth 
Ryan. 

1.  Rosemary  Jackson,  "In  Perspective:  A  Thirty-Five  Year  Account  of  the 
Development  of  Holography  (Part  n),"  Holosphere,  12  (Fall  1983),  p.  13. 

2.  Rudie  Berkhout,  "Holography:  Exploring  a  New  Art  Realm — Shaping 
Empty  Space  with  Light,"  Leonardo,  22,  nos.  3  and  4  (1989),  p.  313. 

3.  Ibid.,  p.  315. 

4.  Marc  Piemontese,  Les  artistes  et  la  lumiere,  exhibition  catalogue 
(Reims,  France;  Centre  National  Art  et  Technologie,  1991),  p.  44. 

5.  Wenyon  &  Gamble,  In  the  Optical  Realm,  exhibition  catalogue 
(Wolverhampton,  England:  Wolverhampton  Art  Gallery,  forthcoming). 


Selected  Bibliography 

Barilleaux,  Rene  Paul,  ed.  Holography  (Re) Defined/ Haruet  Casdin-Silver: 

Thresholds  (exhibition  catalogue).  New  York:  Museum  of  Holography, 

1984. 
Brill,  Louis  M.,  ed.  Holography  as  an  Art  Medium,  issue  of  Leonardo,  22, 

nos.  3  and  4  (1989). 
Casdin-Silver,  Harriet.  "Holographic  Installations:  Sculpting  with  Light." 

Sculpture,  10  (May- June  1991),  pp.  50-55. 
International  Congress  on  Art  in  Holography,  Report.  Notre  Dame,  Indiana: 

Saint  Mary's  College,  1991. 
Jackson,  Rosemary.  "In  Perspective:  A  Thirty-Five  Year  Account  of  the 

Development  of  Holography."  Holosphere,  12  (Summer  1983),  pp.  5-12 

(Part  I);  12  (Fall  1983),  pp.  13-17  (Part  II);  12  (Winter  1984),  pp.  19-23 

(Part  m). 


New  Directions  in  Holography  Floor  Plan 

1.  Rudie  Berkhout,  The  New  Territories 

2.  Wenyon  &  Gamble,  Stella  Maris 

3.  Rudie  Berkhout,  Transfer  339 

4.  Ruche  Berkhout,  Primal  Mix  I 

5.  Rudie  Berkhout,  Breakthrough 

6.  Rudie  Berkhout,  Kuan  Yin 

7.  Rudie  Berkhout,  Ukiyo 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

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Copyright  c  1991  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  60 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


From  Object  to  Subject: 


January  7—26,  1992 


Documents  and  Documentaries  from  the  Women's  Movement 


In  the  inaugural  issue  of  Women  &  Film  (1972),  the  editors 
staked  out  two  related  sites  for  feminist  struggle — the  rep- 
resentation of  women  in  Hollywood  films  as  sex  objects  and 
the  under-representation  of  women  behind  the  camera. 
"The  struggle  begins  on  all  fronts  and  we  are  taking  up  the 
struggle  with  women's  image  in  film  and  women's  roles  in 
the  film  industry — the  ways  in  which  we  are  exploited  and 
the  ways  to  transform  the  derogatory  and  immoral  attitudes 
the  ruling  class  and  their  male  lackeys  have  towards  women 
and  other  oppressed  peoples."1  That  women  sought  the 
solution  to  these  problems  by  empowering  themselves  to 
take  creative  and  technical  control  over  their  own  image 
was  rooted  in  feminist  politics  as  practiced  from  about 
1967  to  1975. 

Among  these  groups  were  radical  feminists,  who  articu- 
lated the  most  sophisticated  and  sweeping  critiques  of 
sexism  as  a  social  system  embedded  in  all  areas  of  public 
and  private  life.  As  Alice  Echols  has  pointed  out:  "Radical 
feminism  rejected  both  the  politico  position  that  socialist 
revolution  would  bring  about  women's  liberation  and  the 
liberal  feminist  solution  of  integrating  women  into  the  pub- 
lic sphere.  Radical  feminists  argued  that  women  constituted 
a  sex-class,  that  relations  between  women  and  men  needed 
to  be  recast  m  political  terms,  and  that  gender  rather  than 
class  was  the  primary  contradiction."2 

Central  to  the  development  of  radical  feminist  critiques 
of  patriarchy  was  the  practice  of  consciousness-raising, 
whereby  women  met  in  small  groups  to  share  their  experi- 
ences of  oppression.  Through  this  process,  radical  feminists 
felt,  women  could  see  "that  what  they  had  previously  be- 
lieved were  personal  problems,  were,  in  fact,  'social  prob- 
lems that  must  become  social  issues  and  fought  together 
rather  than  with  personal  solutions.'  "3 

Filmmaking  that  could  be  identified  as  self-consciously 
feminist  was  one  means  of  correcting  mass-media  stereo- 
types and  empowering  women  to  use  a  technology  that 
had  been  the  exclusive  domain  of  men.  Women  chose 
documentary,  a  genre  revitalized  in  the  1960s,  as  the  most 
direct  vehicle  for  revealing  their  oppressed  condition. 

While  documentary  may  have  been  a  familiar  form,  Julia 
Lesage  has  argued  that  the  feminist  political  documentary 
constituted  a  distinct  sub-genre  whose  characteristics  in- 


Rita  Ogden  and  Wendy  Apple  videotaping  Another  Look,  1972. 

eluded  "biography,  simplicity,  trust  between  woman  film- 
maker and  woman  subject,  a  linear  narrative  structure, 
little  self-consciousness  about  the  flexibility  of  the  cinematic 
medium.  .  .  .  Such  an  organization  serves  a  specific  social 
and  psychological  function  at  this  juncture  in  history.  It  is 
the  artistic  analogue  of  the  structure  and  function  of  the 
consciousness-raising  group."4 

The  films  and  videotapes  in  this  exhibition  span  the 
period  from  1970,  when  radical  feminist  Kate  Millett  pro- 
duced Three  Lives,  the  first  widely  seen  feminist  docu- 
mentary using  the  conventions  of  the  c-r  group,  to  the  end 
of  the  decade,  when  Michelle  Citron's  documentary-fiction 
Daughter-Rite  (1978)  challenged  the  realist  underpinnings 
of  the  documentary  form.  Personal  disclosure  as  representa- 
tive of  collective  experience  is  at  the  heart  of  all  these 
productions,  even  when  they  include  other  kinds  of  material, 
such  as  cinema-verite  style  footage  and  voice-over  narra- 
tion, reworked  so  that  a  female  voice  replaces  the  male, 
"voice  of  God"  narrator. 

The  idea  that  one  could  universalize  all  women's  experi- 
ence from  individual  stories  was,  however,  limiting,  since  it 
privileged  similarities  over  differences — of  economic  class, 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  Consolidated  Edison 
Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and  Catherine  T. 
MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Reed  Foundation,  Inc.,  the  Billy  Rose  Foundation,  Inc.,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  the  Film  and 
Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  Susan  and  Arthur  Fleischer,  Jr.  ,  Toby  Horn  and  Richard  Kandel,  Nancy  Brown  Wellin, 
Barbara  Wise,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


race,  and  sexual  preference.  Many  women  tried  to  bridge 
these  differences,  but  the  assumption  of  universality  is  still 
apparent  and  is  exemplified  in  Program  1,  which  juxta- 
poses Three  Lives  (1970)  and  The  Woman's  Film  (1971). 

The  editing  styles  of  the  two  films  reflect  divergent  ap- 
proaches to  the  problem  of  explicating  the  political  and 
social  dimensions  of  a  life.  In  making  Three  Lives,  the  crew 
lived  together  for  three  weeks,  each  week  filming  with  a 
different  woman.  The  film's  linear  progression  and  the  in- 
clusion of  shots  showing  the  filmmakers  and  their  subjects 
together  reflect  this  process.  For  the  makers  of  Three  Lives, 
the  political  act  resided  in  allowing  their  subjects  to  speak 
about  what  had  previously  been  unspeakable.  Three  Lives 
was  one  of  the  few  instances,  if  not  the  first,  of  a  woman 
coming  out  as  a  lesbian  on  film. 

The  lives  of  the  women  in  The  Woman's  Film,  produced 
by  the  Women's  Caucus  of  San  Francisco  Newsreel,  also  un- 
fold biographically  But,  in  contrast  to  Three  Lives,  though 
typical  of  a  Newsreel  production,  The  Woman's  Film  fo- 
cuses on  Chicano,  black,  and  working-class  white  women, 
whose  stories  are  intercut,  linking  them  to  a  larger  politi- 
cal and  social  struggle — the  exploitation  of  working-class 
women  within  capitalism.  The  structure  of  the  film  posits 
a  logical  progression  from  awareness  of  individual  oppres- 
sion through  consciousness-raising  to  mutual  assistance 
through  collective  action. 

These  two  poles  within  the  women's  liberation  move- 
ment— talk  and  action — are  highlighted  in  Program  2. 
In  Julie  Gustafsoris  Politics  of  Intimacy  (1972-73),  the 
conversations  of  ten  women  are  edited  together  under  dif- 
ferent topic  headings  relating  to  sexuality.  By  carefully  se- 
lecting the  women,  who  vary  in  age,  color,  sexual  experi- 
ence and  orientation,  and  by  using  extreme  close-ups  and  a 
pace  resembling  real  time,  Gustafson  creates  an  "ideal 
consciouness-raising  (c-r)  group,"  in  which  multiple  views 
on  sex  and  sexuality  are  expressed.5 

Women's  Lib  (1970)  documents  a  parade  down  New  York 
City's  Fifth  Avenue  in  1970  as  part  of  the  Women's  Strike  for 
Equality.  Thousands  of  women  marched  and  held  rallies  in 
cities  nationwide,  demanding  legalized  abortion,  child  care, 
and  equal  access  to  educational  and  job  opportunities.  The 
tape  was  one  of  many  shot  by  People's  Video  Theater,  a 
countercultural  media  collective.  Predictably,  the  female  in- 
terviewer in  the  tape  encounters  hostility  from  the  male 
onlookers  and  mixed  reactions  from  the  women. 

Jane  Lurie's  TheFifth  Street  Women's  Building  Film  (1971) 
captures  an  intense  moment  of  activism  and  optimism, 
when  a  group  of  women  took  over  an  abandoned  building 
on  Manhattan's  Lower  East  Side  and  began  fixing  it  up  as  a 
multipurpose  women's  center.  Although  their  plans  were 
dashed  when  the  police  raided  the  building  twelve  days 
later,  the  film  is  a  testament  to  the  energy  and  commitment 
that  sparked  the  creation  of  women's  centers  nationwide. 

Another  Look  (1972)  was  produced  by  six  women  who 
came  together,  at  the  behest  of  black  radical  feminist  Flo 
Kennedy,  as  the  Women's  Video  News  Service.  Their  assign- 
ment: to  document  the  activities  of  the  Feminist  Party  at 


the  1972  Democratic  National  Convention.  The  tape's  frag- 
mented structure,  which  includes  such  disparate  material 
as  interviews  with  black  lesbians  and  with  hippies  outside 
the  convention  center,  reflects  the  collective  nature  of  the 
production  as  well  as  the  conflicting  goals  and  political 
positions  within  the  group. 

In  1973,  the  Supreme  Court  legalized  abortion  with  its 
Roe  v.  Wade  decision,  which  culminated  an  intensive  period 
of  activism  on  the  abortion  issue.  Program  3  examines 
reproductive  rights  and  the  politicization  of  women's  health. 
Healthcaring :  From  Our  End  of  the  Speculum  (1976)  traces 
the  ways  that  women's  biological  functions  have  been  con- 
trolled by  the  male -dominated  medical  profession  and  wo- 
men's efforts  to  regain  control  through  self-help  and  self- 
examination.  The  film  uses  eighteenth-  and  nineteenth- 
century  illustrations  and  interviews  with  women  who  give 
personal  accounts  of  their  experiences  with  male  doctors. 
These  are  interspersed  with  a  female  voice-over  criticizing 
standard  gynecological  practices. 

Amalie  R.  Rothschild's  It  Happens  to  Us  (1972)  opens 
with  a  woman  telling  her  horror  story  of  an  illegal  abortion, 
then  cuts  to  a  pro-choice  rally.  In  contextualizing  personal 
testimony  with  activism  and  providing  information  on  con- 
traception and  abortion,  Rothschild  links  the  right  to  abor- 
tion with  the  right  of  women  to  control  their  sexuality.  The 
issue  of  reproductive  self-determination  is  also  central  to 
Susan  Kleckner's  Birth  Film  (1972),  which  documents  the 
delivery  of  a  friend's  baby  at  home.  At  the  beginning  of  the 
film,  the  parents  discuss  home  birthing  as  a  logical  out- 
growth of  their  concern  for  reproductive  rights  and  other 
issues.  The  representation  of  the  birth  itself  also  takes  on  an 
assertive  political  dimension  in  Kleckner's  extreme  close-up 
shot  of  the  vagina  at  the  moment  of  parturition. 

Program  4  reflects  attitudes  about  female  socialization  as 
it  was  understood  in  the  early  1970s.  Julia  Reichert  and 
James  Klein's  Growing  Up  Female  (1971)  opens  with  a  track- 
ing shot  of  a  mother  and  daughter  walking  down  the  street 
dressed  in  identical  outfits.  Drawing  heavily  on  sociological 
models  of  human  development,  the  film  features  six  "repre- 
sentative" girls  and  women  and  examines  their  attitudes 
toward  love,  marriage,  and  relationships  as  they  are  shaped 
by  family,  schools,  the  media,  and  business. 

The  California  video  collective  Optic  Nerve  was  commis- 
sioned by  public  TV  station  KQED  to  produce  a  documen- 
tary on  the  1973  Miss  California  Pageant.  Unlike  Growing 
Up  Female,  Fifty  Wonderful  Years  is  more  subtle  in  its  cri- 
tique, the  position  of  its  producers  less  apparent.  Its  cool 
cinema-verite  stance  suggests  through  juxtaposition  that 
the  contestants  have  been  brainwashed  by  societal — i.e., 
male — standards  of  female  beauty  and  feminine  behavior. 

In  Nun  and  Deviant  (1976),  Nancy  Angelo  and  Candace 
Compton  stage  a  performance  to  exorcize  roles  and  be- 
haviors traditionally  assigned  to  women.  Assuming  two 
stereotypes,  they  take  turns  delivering  monologues  that 
reflect  expectations  about  how  a  nun  and  a  "deviant" 
should  behave — one  overly  solicitous  and  guilty,  the  other 
tough  and  invulnerable.  During  the  performance,  the  two 


women  switch  roles,  and  one  is  seen  in  the  background 
breaking  glass  bottles.  This  shattering,  and  the  process  of 
role  reversal,  represent  a  woman's  freedom  to  define  herself 
rather  than  accept  the  definition  of  a  patriarchal  society. 

The  two  films  in  Program  5  use  both  documentary  and 
narrative  conventions  to  represent  the  traumatic  issue  of 
rape  without  titillation.  In  New  York  Newsreel's  Makeout 
(1972),  a  teenage  couple  makes  out  in  the  front  seat  of  a  car. 
On  the  soundtrack,  the  woman's  point  of  view  is  privileged: 
a  female  voice-over  describes  her  fears  and  insecurities  as 
the  guy  attempts  to  "get  some  action."  Makeout's  use  of 
humor  and  narrative  and  the  absence  of  Newsreel's  political 
analysis  made  it  an  atypical  film  for  the  collective. 

While  date  rape  is  merely  alluded  to  in  Makeout,  it  is  the 
central  subject  of  Martha  Coolidge's  Not  a  Pretty  Picture 
(1975),  a  feature-length  film  based  on  the  filmmaker's  own 
experience  in  high  school  in  1962.  Coolidge  uses  both  acted 
and  improvisational  scenes  to  move  the  narrative  along,  but 
then  pulls  back  at  key  dramatic  moments  to  allow  the  actors 
to  discuss  their  feelings  about  the  roles  they  are  playing. 
This  film-within-a-film  technique  allowed  her  to  avoid  the 
titillating  aspects  of  the  actual  rape  scene,  which  enables 
viewers  to  think  about  the  real  implications  of  date  rape. 

A  newly  awakened  consciousness  of  the  nature  of  op- 
pression led  many  women  filmmakers  to  excavate  the  lives 
of  their  mothers  and  grandmothers.  Amalie  R.  Rothschild's 
Nana,  Mom  and  Me  (1974),  the  first  film  in  Program  6, 
contains  no  shocking  revelations  of  abusive  treatment; 
rather,  it  explores  the  differing  expectations  and  disappoint- 
ments among  mothers  and  daughters  over  three  genera- 
tions. In  contrast,  Ama  l'uomo  tuo  (Always  Love  Your  Man) 
(1974),  Cara  de  Vito's  portrait  of  her  immigrant  Italian 
grandmother  Adeline,  reveals  the  harrowing  treatment  Ad- 
eline endured  from  her  authoritarian  husband,  including  a 
botched  abortion  that  nearly  killed  her.  Most  surprising  was 
her  acceptance  of  the  abuse — hence,  the  tape's  title.  Al- 
though de  Vito  never  attempts  to  universalize  Adeline's 
story,  it  tacitly  supported  the  case  for  women's  liberation. 

Unlike  Rothschild  and  de  Vito,  Michelle  Citron  rejects  the 
realist  capacity  of  documentary  and,  in  the  process,  lodges  a 
critique  of  nuclear  families.  In  Daughter-Rite  (1978),  Citron 
intercuts  home  movie  slow-motion  footage  of  a  mother  and 
two  young  daughters  with  footage  of  two  sisters  talking 
about  their  family.  Not  until  the  end  of  the  film  do  we 
discover  that  the  two  sisters  were  acting  fully  scripted 
scenes  that  had  been  shot  in  documentary  style.  This  tech- 
nique calls  into  question  the  truth  value  of  the  home  movie 
footage,  as  well  as  the  "truth"  of  the  happy  family  as  pro- 
jected by  the  father/cameraman. 

Program  7  includes  three  films  that  look  historically  at  the 
lives  of  women  in  the  public  sphere.  The  Emerging  Woman 
(1974),  produced  by  the  Women's  Film  Project,  provides  an 
overview  of  women  in  American  society  from  the  early 
nineteenth-century  on.  The  Emerging  Woman  is  the  filmic 
equivalent  of  the  books  on  women's  history  that  appeared 
in  the  early  1970s.  These  efforts  had  a  political  purpose — to 
correct  the  neglect  inflicted  on  women  by  generations  of 


historians  and  to  provide  a  context  for  the  most  recent  wave 
of  women's  activism. 

The  desire  to  find  role  models  or  celebrate  the  achieve- 
ments of  successful  women  is  the  impulse  behind  Antonia  : 
A  Portrait  of  the  Woman  (1974),  a  film  by  Judy  Collins  and 
Jill  Godmilow.  The  film  profiles  Antonia  Brico,  who  made  her 
conducting  debut  in  1930  with  the  Berlin  Philharmonic.  In 
intercutting  extensive  interview  material  and  scenes  of 
Antonia  conducting  and  teaching  with  newspaper  clip- 
pings about  her  numerous  accomplishments,  Collins  and 
Godmilow  portray  a  passionate  and  complex  woman  who 
was  denied  the  opportunities  accorded  male  conductors. 

The  stories  of  three  women  who  became  militant  union 
organizers  in  the  1930s  are  the  focus  of  Union  Maids  (1975), 
by  Julia  Reichert,  James  Klein,  and  Miles  Mogulescu.  The 
film  combines  labor  history  with  women's  history  and 
seeks  to  find  lessons  for  the  contemporary  labor  movement. 

The  films  and  tape  in  Program  8  attest  to  radical  femi- 
nism's assault  on  the  traditional  nuclear  family  as  repres- 
sive and,  at  times,  dangerous  to  women.  In  Janie's  Janie 
(1970-71),  Geri  Ashur  and  Peter  Barton  trace  the  politiciza- 
tion  of  a  working-class  woman  who'd  been  beaten  both  by 
her  father  and  husband.  She  later  becomes  a  community 
activist  and  feminist,  and  declares :  "I  was  my  father's  Janie, 
then  I  was  Charlie's  Janie.  Now  I'm  Janie's  Janie." 

In  Harriett  (1973),  Nancy  Cain,  one  of  the  founders  of 
Lanesville  TV  a  small  community  station  in  upstate  New 
York,  videotapes  her  neighbor,  Harriett  Benjamin,  doing  her 
domestic  chores.  Harriett's  dissatisfaction  with  her  lot  peri- 
odically erupts  until  she  is  seen  driving  down  the  road, 
joyously  singing.  Harriett's  escape  is  pure  fantasy,  but  Cain 
suggests  the  real  possibility  of  resistance  by  using  a 
straightforward  documentary  style. 

The  last  two  films  look  at  the  ways  that  single  mothers 
created  alternatives  to  the  nuclear  family.  Deborah  Shaffer 
and  Bonme  Friedman's  Chris  &  Bernie  (1975)  focuses  on  the 
daily  life  of  two  divorced  mothers  of  young  children  who 
share  a  household,  reflecting  the  convergence  of  feminism 
with  a  countercultural  life-style.  In  the  Best  Interests  of  the 
Children  (1977),  produced  by  the  Iris  Film  Collective,  is  one 
of  the  first  attempts  to  address  issues  facing  lesbian 
mothers — or  to  even  acknowledge  that  they  exist.  In  outlin- 
ing the  difficulties  they  have  in  retaining  custody  of  their 
children  after  divorce,  the  film  argues  that  lesbians  are  no 
less  capable  of  mothering  than  straight  women. 

One  of  the  central  debates  within  feminism  is  the  issue  of 
essentialism,  which  argues  that  women  and  men  possess 
distinct  attributes — for  example,  that  male  sexuality  is  vio- 
lent, whereas  female  sexuality  is  nurturing.  Program  9 
consists  of  two  documents  of  an  idealized  lesbian  culture 
rooted  in  essentialist  beliefs.  Barbara  Hammer's  short  film 
Dyketactics  (1974)  uses  multiple  printing  and  superimposi- 
tion  to  proffer  a  vision  of  a  lesbian  sisterhood  that  celebrates 
the  female  body  in  the  natural  environment.  The  Amazon 
Festival  (1974-77)  is  a  cinema-verite  video  documentary  of  a 
"lesbian-produced  music  festival  for  all  women,"  which  took 
place  in  the  Santa  Cruz  Mountains  in  1974.  Produced  by 


three  members  of  the  Santa  Cruz  Women's  Media  Collective, 
the  tape  epitomizes  the  beginnings  of  cultural  feminism,  a 
personal  politics  aimed  at  self-transformation  and  the  cre- 
ation of  a  cultural  sphere  divorced  from  collective  action. 

The  collapse  of  the  most  activist  phase  of  the  women's 
liberation  movement  was  accompanied  by  a  shift  in  the 
definition  of  feminist  filmmaking.  While  many  producers, 
including  Gustafson,  Gray,  Solberg-Ladd,  Shaffer,  and  de 
Vito,  continued  making  documentaries,  others,  as  the  films 
of  Coolidge  and  Citron  reveal,  began  to  rethink  the  docu- 
mentary form.  By  the  end  of  the  1970s,  the  deconstruction- 
1st  strategies  initiated  by  Laura  Mulvey  and  Yvonne  Rainer 
created  a  new  paradigm  for  feminist  filmmaking. 

Lucinda  Furlong 
Assistant  Curator,  Film  and  Video 


Notes 

1.  Women  &  Film,  no.  1  (1972),  p.  5. 

2.  Alice  Echols,  Danng  to  Be  Bad:  Radical  Feminism  in  America, 
1967-1975  (Minneapolis:  University  of  Minnesota  Press,  1989).  p.  3. 

3.  Ibid.,  p.  83. 

4.  Julia  Lesage,  "The  Political  Aesthetics  of  the  Feminist  Documentary 
Film,"  Quarterly  Review  of  Film  Studies,  3  (Fall  1978),  pp.  508,  515. 

5.  Martha  Gever.  "Video  Politics:  Early  Feminist  Projects,"  Afterimage,  11 
(Summer  1983),  pp.  25-27. 


SCHEDULE 

All  works  are  16mm  film,  black-and-white,  and  sound,  unless 
otherwise  noted. 

Program  1:  Public  and  Private 
Tuesday,  January  7  at  5:45 
Wednesday,  January  8  at  2:00 

Three  Lives  (1970),  Women's  Liberation  Cinema  Company  (Kate 

Millett,  Louva  Irvine,  Susan  Kleckner,  and  Robin  Mide).  70  minutes. 

The  Woman's  Film  (1971),  Women's  Caucus  of  San  Francisco 
Newsreel  (Judy  Smith,  Louise  Alauno,  and  Ellen  Sorin).  40 
minutes 

Program  2:  Strategies 
Tuesday,  January  7  at  2:00 
Thursday,  January  23  at  2:00 
Sunday,  January  26  at  2:00 

Womens's  Lib  (1970),  People's  Video  Theater.  Videotape,  7  minutes. 

Politics  of  Intimacy  (1972-73),  Julie  Gustafson.  Videotape, 
58  minutes. 

Another  Look,  Parts  1  and  2  (1972),  Women's  Video  News  Service 
(Wendy  Apple,  Mary  Feldbauer,  Susan  Kleckner,  Carolyn  Kieski, 
Pat  de  Pew  and  Rita  Ogden)  Videotape,  55  minutes. 

The  Fifth  Street  Women's  Building  Film  (1971),  Jane  Lune  15  minutes. 


Program  4:  Socialization 
Tuesday,  January  14  at  2:00 
Wednesday,  January  15  at  2 :  00 

Growing  Up  Female  (1971),  Julia  Reichert  and  James  Klein. 

50  minutes. 
Fifty  Wonderful  Years  (1973),  Optic  Nerve  (Lynn  Adler,  Sherrie 

Rabinowitz,  and  Bill  Bradbury).  Videotape,  27  minutes. 
Nun  and  Deviant  (1976),  Nancy  Angelo  and  Candace  Compton. 

Videotape,  20  minutes. 

Program  5:  Rape 

Sunday,  January  12  at  2:00 

Tuesday,  January  14  at  6 :  10 

Makeout  (1972),  New  York  Newsreel.  12  minutes. 

iVot  a  Pretty  Picture  (1975),  Martha  Coolidge.  Color,  82  minutes. 

Program  6:  Mother,  Daughters,  and  Granddaughters 
Friday,  January  17  at  2:00 
Saturday,  January  18  at  2:00 

Nana,  Mom  and  Me  (1974),  Amalie  R.  Rothschild.  Color,  47  minutes. 
Ama  l'uomo  tuo  (Always  Love  Your  Man)  (1974),  Cara  de  Vito. 

Videotape,  24  minutes. 
Daughter-Rite  (1978),  MicheDe  Citron.  Color,  53  minutes. 

Program  7:  Women  in  the  Public  Sphere 
Sunday,  January  19  at  2:00 
Tuesday,  January  21  at  2:00 

The  Emerging  Woman  (1974),  Women's  Film  Project  (Helena  Solberg- 
Ladd,  Roberta  Haber,  Lorraine  Gray,  and  Melame  Maholick). 
40  minutes. 

Antonia:  A  Portrait  of  the  Woman  (1974),  Judy  Collins  and 
Jill  Godmilow.  Color,  58  minutes. 

Union  Maids  (1975),  Julia  Reichert,  James  Klein,  and 
Miles  Mogulescu.  48  mmutes. 

Program  8:  The  Nuclear  Family 
Friday,  January  24  at  2:00 
Saturday,  January  25  at  2:00 

Janie's  Janie  (1970-71),  Gen  Ashur  and  Peter  Barton.  24  minutes. 

Harriett  (1973),  Nancy  Cain.  14  mmutes. 

Chris  &  Bernie  (1975),  Deborah  Shaffer  and  Bonnie  Friedman.  Color, 

25  minutes. 
In  the  Best  Interests  of  the  Children  (1977),  Ins  Film  Collective 

(Frances  Reid,  Elizabeth  Stevens,  and  Cathy  Zheutlin).  Color, 

52  minutes. 

Program  9:  A  Female  Culture 
Thursday,  January  9  at  2:00 
Tuesday,  January  21  at  6:10 
Wednesday,  January  22  at  2:00 

Dyketactics  (1974),  Barbara  Hammer.  Color,  4  minutes. 

The  Amazon  Festival  (1973-77),  Santa  Cruz  Women's  Media 

Collective  (Anne  Irving,  Che  Sandoval,  and  Pam  Springer). 

Videotape,  57  minutes. 


« 


• 


Program  3:  Reproductive  Rights 
Friday,  January  10  at  2:00 
Saturday  January  11  at  2:00 
Thursday,  January  16  at  2:00 

Healthcaring :  From  Our  End  of  the  Speculum  (1976),  Denise  Bostrom 

and  Jane  Warrenbrand.  Color,  32  minutes. 
It  Happens  to  Us  (1972),  Amalie  R.  Rothschild.  Color,  30  minutes. 
Birth  Film  (1972),  Susan  Kleckner.  Color,  35  minutes. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  11:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  E  1992  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  61 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


La  Indirecta  Directa: 

Two  Decades  of  Chicano  and  Puerto  Rican  Film  and  Video 


January  28-February  16,  1992 


Gallery  talk,  Tuesday,  February  4  at  6:30. 

Chon  A.  Noriega  and  Lillian  Jimenez  will  be  present. 


SCHEDULE 

All  works  are  16mm  film,  color,  sound,  and  m  English,  unless 
otherwise  noted. 

Program  I:  Pick  up  the  Camera  and  Shoot 

Tuesday,  January  28  at  2:00  and  6:15 

Wednesday,  January  29-Sunday,  February  2  at  2:00 

The  Devil  Is  a  Condition  (1972),  Carlos  de  Jesus.  25  minutes. 

El  Pueblo  Se  Levanta  (1972),  Newsreel.  Black-and-white,  50  minutes. 

Program  II:  "To  call  back  to  myself  what  was  mine  . . ." 

Part  1:  Drama 

Tuesday,  February  4  at  2:00 

Wednesday,  February  5-Sunday,  February  9  at  noon 

Cristina  Pagan  (1982),  Pablo  Figueroa.  20  minutes. 
Distant  Water  (1990),  Carlos  Avila.  Black-and-white,  28  minutes. 
Spanish  with  English  subtitles. 

Part  2:  Documentary 

Tuesday,  February  4  at  4:00 

Wednesday,  February  5-Sunday,  February  9  at  2:00 

Los  Sures  (1983),  Diego  Echeverria.  58  minutes.  English,  and 

Spanish  with  English  subtitles. 
La  Ofrenda:  The  Days  of  the  Dead  (1989),  Lourdes  Portillo  and 

Susana  Munoz.  50  minutes.  English,  and  Spamsh  with 

English  subtitles. 

Program  III:  Testimonio:  Mediated  Selves 

Tuesday,  February  11  at  2:00  and  6:15 

Wednesday,  February  12  Sunday,  February  16  at  2:00 

Border  Brujo  (1990),  Isaac  Artenstein.  Videotape,  52  minutes.  English, 

Spanish,  Calo,  and  Nahuatl. 
El  Espejo/The  Mirror  (1991),  Frances  Salome  Espaha.  Videotape, 

5  minutes.  English  and  Spanish. 
Slipping  Between  (1991),  Sandra  P  Hahn.  Videotape,  3  minutes. 


Guillermo  Gomez-Pefia  m  Border  Brujo  (1990),  directed  by 
Isaac  Artenstein. 


The  New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  Consolidated  Edison 
Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S.  Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D.  and  Catherine  T. 
MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Reed  Foundation,  Inc.,  the  Billy  Rose  Foundation,  Inc.,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  the  Film  and 
Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  Susan  and  Arthur  Fleischer,  Jr.,  Toby  Horn  and  Richard  Kandel,  Nancy  Brown  Wellin, 
Barbara  Wise,  the  New  York  State  Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts. 


Lennard  Camanllo  m  Distant  Water  (1990),  directed  by  Carlos  Avila. 


This  exhibition  investigates  the  cinematic  expressions  of 
two  distinct  communities  with  shared  experiences  of  dis- 
crimination yet  different  historical  trajectories  in  the  United 
States.  Rather  than  posit  a  connection  between  Puerto  Ri- 
can  and  Chicano  cinemas  at  the  level  of  ethnic  or  cultural 
"naming" — Latino,  Hispanic,  raza — we  have  chosen  to 
place  the  emphasis  on  the  common  rhetorical  and  survival 
strategies  of  the  film-  and  videomakers. 

These  strategies,  however,  can  be  attributed  to  historical 
experiences  rooted  in  the  increased  control  of  the  United 
States  over  the  former  Spanish  colonies  in  the  Americas.  At 
the  end  of  the  Mexican- American  War  in  1848,  the  US  gov- 
ernment was  ceded  the  northern  half  of  Mexico,  and  in  1898 
the  Spanish-American  War  initiated  colonial  control  over 
Puerto  Rico,  among  other  "strategic"  territories.  The  first 
half  of  the  "American  Century"  witnessed  a  complicated 
and  ambiguous  relationship  with  Puerto  Ricans  and  Chi- 
canos,  their  legal  status  as  citizens  balanced  against  the 
simultaneous  dispossession  of  communal  land  holdings  in 
the  name  of  economic  development.  Since  the  1930s,  Chi- 
canos,  although  citizens,  have  faced  various  deportation 
programs.  For  Puerto  Ricans,  an  industrialization  program 
on  the  island  resulted  in  massive  migration  to  the  United 
States,  an  insidious  female  sterilization  program  aimed 
at  population  control,1  and  an  exodus  of  agricultural  con- 
tract labor. 

For  both  groups,  the  generation  that  came  of  age  in  the 
1960s  and  1970s  was  the  first  to  gain  access  (albeit  limited) 
to  the  means  of  self-representation  in  film  and  television. 
Born  in  the  post-World  War  II  decade,  these  filmmakers 
grew  up  in  the  contentious  ideological  and  political  terrain 
of  the  cold  war,  the  civil  rights  movement,  and  Third  World 
struggles  against  the  remnants  of  US  and  European  colo- 
nialism. Cultural  nationalism  predicated  on  the  salient,  es- 
sential, and  defining  character  of  lo  puertorriqueho  or  lo 


chicano  served  as  a  stance  and  political  strategy  against 
several  dominating  forces.  Activists  directed  efforts  at  com- 
munity control,  especially  over  education,  housing,  and  me- 
dia institutions.  It  is  within  this  context  that  Puerto  Rican 
and  Chicano  filmmakers  initiated  self-representation,  de- 
veloping an  expressive,  strategic  language  to  position 
themselves  in  opposition  to  institutionalized  racism  and 
economic  obstacles. 

The  films  in  this  series  challenge  conventional  and  stereo- 
typical representations  of  Chicanos  and  Puerto  Ricans  as 
the  Other.  In  offering  both  critique  and  alternative,  these 
films  confront  and  negotiate  an  industry  that  has  estab- 
lished cinematic  expectations  for  the  entire  world.  How, 
then,  to  speak  and  be  heard,  particularly  in  the  face  of 
political  and  economic  censorship?  La  indirecta  directs 
translates  as  "the  direct  innuendo,"  but  the  rhyme  and  pun 
in  the  original  Spanish  points  to  the  importance  of  language 
and  discourse  in  Puerto  Rican  and  Chicano  expressions. 
The  strategy  of  la  indirecta  directa  can  best  be  described  as 
a  coded  sarcasm  that  has  a  delayed,  stinging  effect.  As 
Juan  Flores  and  George  Yudice  note,  "Language  is  the  nec- 
essary terrain  on  which  Latinos  negotiate  value  and  at- 
tempt to  reshape  the  institutions  through  which  it  is  dis- 
tributed."2 Similar  in  nature  to  the  African- American 
vernacular  concept  of  "signifyiri  "  and  other  concepts  such 
as  "counter-discourse"  and  "reverse  discourse,"  la  indirecta 
directa  represents  strategies  of  speaking  against  the  grain. 

Program  I,  "Pick  Up  the  Camera  and  Shoot,"  examines 
early  attempts  by  Chicanos  and  Puerto  Ricans  to  gain  ac- 
cess to  the  mass  media  as  well  as  to  develop  a  cinematic 
language  with  which  to  communicate  to  the  community 
and  beyond.  These  films  participated  in  the  concurrent 
struggles  for  community  control.  Carlos  de  Jesus'  The  Devil 
Is  a  Condition  (1972)  utilizes  jazz  and  poetry  in  order  to 
redirect  the  blame  for  substandard  housing  conditions  from 
the  community  itself  to  dominant  institutions.  The  sponta- 
neous protests  that  the  film  documents,  while  localized  and 
without  political  leadership,  set  the  stage  for  subsequent 
community-based  organization.  El  Pueblo  Se  Levanta  (1972), 
shot  and  edited  in  cooperation  with  the  Young  Lords,  a 
group  of  Puerto-Rican  activists,  provides  a  mediated  self- 
portrait  of  political  organization  for  improved  housing,  edu- 
cation, and  health  care. 

Program  II,  "To  call  back  to  myself  what  was  mine 
investigates  the  development  of  a  "voice"  within  the  Ameri- 
can cinema.  The  program  title  is  a  quotation  from  Carmen 
de  Monte  flores'  novella  Cantando  Bajito  and  describes  Lat- 
ino filmmaking  since  the  1980s,  with  its  more  lyrical,  syn- 
cretic cinematic  approach  to  the  search  for  a  new  voice, 
an  approach  different  from  the  strategic  essentializing  of 
the  late  1960s  and  early  1970s.  That  new  voice  is  more 
fluid,  interrogative  (of  self  and  other),  and  provisional,  yet 
never  static. 

The  first  part  of  the  program  deals  with  short  dramas 
that  reveal  the  rich  and  textural  ways  filmmakers  represent 


the  multiple  stances  and  political  and  cultural  spaces  cre- 
ated by  Chicanos  and  Puerto  Ricans.  Pablo  Figueroa's 
Cristina  Pagan  (1982)  exemplifies  the  desire  of  Puerto  Rican 
filmmakers  to  reclaim  spirituality  in  Puerto  Rican  culture. 
Centered  on  the  death  (and  absence)  of  a  child  within  the 
Puerto  Rican  family,  the  film  presents  a  complex  and  realis- 
tic portrayal  of  the  religious  beliefs  in  the  Puerto  Rican 
community.  Carlos  Avila's  Distant  Water  (1990)  depicts  a 
ten-year-old  Chicano  boy's  response  to  the  racial  assaults 
and  segregated  swimming  pools  of  Los  Angeles  in  the 
1940s.  The  film  draws  upon  cinematic  styles  concurrent 
with  the  events  told,  styles  never  used  to  depict  Chicano 
subjects  and  narratives.  So-called  "Mexican"  characters, 
after  all,  were  limited  to  Westerns  and  other  action  genres, 
while  Puerto  Ricans  have  been  stereotyped  as  juvenile 
delinquents  and  gang  members.  In  both  films,  the  use  of 
Spanish  dialogue  further  adapts  the  discourse  of  an  Ameri- 
can cinema  of  Anglo  "images"  to  the  articulation  of  a  Latino 
subject,  while  the  fact  that  the  narratives  center  on  chil- 
dren places  questions  of  social  formation  within  the  con- 
text of  ego  development  and  home  culture  as  well  as  po- 
litical resistance. 


The  second  part  of  this  program  consists  of  documen- 
taries that  play  with  the  boundaries  between  objective  and 
subjective,  allowing  viewers  to  occupy  simultaneous  and 
multiple  positions  between  the  two.  In  Los  Sures  (1983), 
Diego  Echeverria,  a  Chilean  raised  in  Puerto  Rico,  presents  a 
dynamic  portrait  of  several  members  of  a  low- income  Puerto 
Rican  community  in  Brooklyn,  New  York.  The  variety  of 
personalities  addresses  the  multiple  coping  and  survival 
strategies  employed  within  one  community  defined  by  cul- 
tural and  geographic  borders.  Lourdes  Portillo's  films 
confront  international  political  issues  from  the  personal 
perspective  of  Latina  resistance.  La  Ofrenda :  The  Days  of 
the  Dead  (1989),  made  with  Susana  Muhoz,  examines  the 
relationship  between  cultural  ritual  in  Mexico  and  its 
sociopolitical  transformation  in  the  United  States. 

In  Program  III,  "Testimonio:  Mediated  Selves,"  Chicano 
video  and  performance  artists  experiment  with  the  Latin- 
American  testimonial  narrative.  The  testimonio  has  various 
precursors  in  Latin  American  literature,  dating  from  the 
nineteenth  century  on,  from  first-person  accounts  of  histori- 
cal events  by  participants  and  journalists  to  transcriptions 
of  oral  testimonies  to  the  novela  testimonio  (a  pastiche  of 


Los  Suzes  (1983),  directed  by  Diego  Echeverria. 


Notes 

1.  For  further  information  on  population  control  and  female  sterilization  in 
Puerto  Rico,  see  Pat  Henderson,  "Population  Policy,  Social  Structure,  and 
the  Health  System  in  Puerto  Rico:  The  Case  of  Female  Sterilization,"  Ph.  D. 
dissertation,  University  of  Connecticut,  Storrs,  1976.  See  also  the  docu- 
mentary La  Operation  by  Ana  Mana  Garcia,  distributed  by  Cinema  Guild, 
New  York.  Puerto  Rico  is  the  country  with  the  highest  incidence  of  female 
sterilization  in  the  world.  Over  one-third  of  all  Puerto  Paean  women  of 
childbeanng  age  have  been  sterilized.  So  common  is  the  procedure  that 
it  is  simply  known  as  "la  operacion."  Usmg  newsreels  and  excerpts 
from  government  propaganda  films,  plus  interviews  with  Puerto  Rican 
women,  doctors,  birth  control  specialists,  and  politicians,  La  Operation 
explores  the  controversial  use  of  sterilization  as  a  means  of  population 
control. 

2.  Juan  Flores  and  George  Yudice,  "Living  Borders/Busdando  America: 
Languages  of  Latino  Self-Formation,"  Social  Text,  no.  24  (1990),  p.  61. 

3.  In  Spanish  however,  Espafia  uses  the  word  for  fly,  mosca,  which  is  also 
slang  for  the  helicopters  that  search  for  undocumented  workers. 


La  Ofrenda:  The  Days  of  the  Dead  (1989),  directed  by  Lourdes  Portillo  and 
Susana  Muhoz. 


sources  and  genres).  What  these  various  forms  have  in 
common  is  a  personal  or  subjective  approach  to  broader 
historical  movements  which  challenges  the  notion  of  an 
objective  history  distinct  from  memory  and  self-conscious 
"making."  In  the  three  videos  presented  here,  the  socio- 
political subtext  of  the  testimonio  becomes  increasingly 
self- reflexive  and  subjective,  from  the  multiples  selves  of 
Guillermo  Gomez-Pena  in  Isaac  Artenstein's  Border  Brujo 
(1990),  to  Frances  Salome  Espaha's  fragmented  narrative  in 
El  Espejo/The  Mirror  (1991),  to  Sandra  P.  Hahris  elliptical, 
poetic  "autobiography"  in  Slipping  Between  (1991). 

The  need  to  speak  against  the  grain  persists,  although 
Puerto  Rican  and  Chicano  filmmakers  increasingly  draw 
upon  dominant  discourses  as  well  as  oppositional  ones. 
Strategic  essentialism  has  given  way  to  strategic  post- 
structuralism,  so  that  la  indirecta  directs  often  cuts  several 
ways.  In  El  Espejo/The  Mirror,  Espaha  uses  metaphor  to 
describe  the  impact  of  internal  colonialism  on  the  barrio,  the 
Latino  neighborhood.  In  her  bilingual  text,  Espaha  de- 
scribes bees3  who  build  a  conceptual  wall  around  East  L.A. 
that  the  gente  or  people,  cannot  see,  but  also  cannot  see 
beyond.  In  the  telling  of  her  absurd  dream,  however,  Espaha 
holds  up  the  mirror  to  the  so-called  dominant  culture  to  offer 
a  surreal  reflection  that  insinuates  the  psychological,  cul- 
tural, and  economic  violence  inflicted  upon  the  Mexican- 
American  Generation  (1930-60)  of  her  parents.  Like  the 
gente,  the  audience  cannot  at  first  see  la  indirecta  directa; 
although  perhaps  later,  over  coffee,  recalling  the  strik- 
ing visuals  and  music  of  her  piece,  each  viewer  will  catch 
a  glimpse  of  his  or  her  role  in  building  the  wall.  And, 
to  paraphrase  Robert  Frost,  how  these  walls  make 
Good  Neighbors. 

Chon  A.  Noriega  and  Lillian  Jimenez 
Guest  Curators 


Selected  Bibliography 

Cent/o  de  Estudios  Puertorriquenos.  Bulletin,  2  (Sprmg  1990),  and  3 

(Winter  1990-91).  Special  issues  on  Latinos  and  the  media. 
Cine  de  Mestizaje  (exhibition  catalogue).  Essays  by  Lillian  Jimenez, 

Tbmas  Ybarra-Frausto,  and  Chon  Noriega.  New  York:  El  Museo  del 

Barno  and  National  Latmo  Film  and  Video  Festival,  1991. 
Noriega,  Chon  A.,  ed.  Chicanos  and  Film:  Essays  on  Chicano 

Representation  and  Resistance.  New  York:  Garland  Publishing,  1992. 
.  "In  Aztlan:  The  Films  of  the  Chicano  Movement,  1969-79." 

New  American  Film  and  Video  Series  56  (program  note).  New  York: 

Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art,  1991. 
"The  Puerto  Rican  Heritage  Month  Cultural  Guide."  Daily  News, 

November  3,  1991,  special  supplement. 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 

945  Madison  Avenue 
New  York,  New  York  10021 

Hours:  Tuesday  1:00-8:00 

Wednesday-Saturday  11:00-5:00 
Sunday  11:00-6:00 

Film  and  video  information:  (212)  570-0537 


Copyright  ©  1992  by  the  Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art 


Whitney  Museum  of  American  Art  62 
New  American  Film  and  Video  Series 


The  Local  Stigmatic 

February  26-March  15,  1992 


Schedule 

Wednesdays  at  1:00  and  3:00 

Thursdays  at  2:00,  4:00,  and  6:30 

Fridays,  Saturdays,  and  Sundays  at  1:00  and  3:00 

Credits 

The  Local  Stigmatic,  1989.  35mm  film,  color,  and  Dolby  sound; 
55  minutes. 

Written  by  Heathcote  Williams. 

Directed  by  David  Wheeler. 

Produced  by  Jim  Bullett.  Music:  Howard  Shore. 

Editors:  Jerry  Bloedow,  Elizabeth  Kling. 

Director  of  Photography:  Ed  Lachman. 

Set  Designer:  Franne  Lee. 

Production  Supervisor:  Timothy  Marx. 

Cast:  Al  Pacino  (Graham),  Paul  Guilfoyle  (Ray),  Joe  Maher 
(David),  Mike  Higgins  (Drunk),  and  Brian  Mallon  (News  Vendor). 


The  development  of  the  cinema  in  the  late  nineteenth 
century  created  a  dynamic  between  the  spectacle  of  the 
projected  film  image  and  live  performance.  The  design  of 
the  motion  picture  theater  was  modeled  on  that  of  the 
traditional  theater,  that  is,  the  proscenium  arch  and  the 
curtain  which  unveiled  the  screen.  Theater  directors, 
producers,  and  actors  crossed  the  boundary  and  entered 
the  realm  of  the  cinema.  They  began  to  experiment  with 
the  new  technology,  translating  the  language  of  the 
stage— which  was  predominantly  narrative — onto  the 
screen.  But  the  cinema  soon  became  a  forum  for  a  new 
system  of  narrative  construction,  largely  because  of  the 
differences  that  began  to  emerge  between  the  discourses 
of  live  theater  and  film,  the  latter,  for  instance,  enabling 
new  methods  of  acting.  In  the  cinema,  camera  angles  and 
the  technology  of  editing  can  control  and  shape  the 
spectator's  point  of  view.  Thus,  despite  the  many  contact 
points  between  the  two  art  forms,  new  strategies  for  the 
performance  of  narrative  developed  in  the  cinema. 


Al  Pacino  and  Paul  Guilfoyle  in  The  Local  Stigmatic  (1989),  directed 
by  David  Wheeler. 


The  artist  who  wishes  to  translate  a  stage  script  into  a 
film  must  identify  the  essence  of  the  play  and  place  it 
within  a  cinematic  mise-en-scene,  one  removed  from  a 
purely  theatrical  mode  of  address.  A  filmic  narrative  is 
largely  fashioned  through  strategies  of  cinematic  framing 
and  carefully  measured  camera  shots.  Although  the 
technology  of  editing  somewhat  eliminates  the  moment- 
to-moment  quality  of  surprise  that  live  performance 
offers  the  actor,  the  technology  of  the  close-up  simul- 
taneously allows  for  subtleties  of  characterization  which 
might  go  unnoticed  in  the  theater. 

The  Local  Stigmatic  exemplifies  a  rare  instance  in 
which  a  stage  play  has  been  successfully  translated  onto 
the  screen.  A  primary  reason  for  this  success  is  the  script, 
written  by  Heathcote  Williams,  an  eccentric  figure  in 
British  culture  of  the  1960s.  He  has  written  poetry,  prose, 
song  lyrics,  and  plays,  including  The  Local  Stigmatic  and 
AC/DC,  which  won  an  Obie.  Both  these  plays  are  expres- 
sions of  Williams'  radical  politics  and  desire  to  use  his  art 
as  a  means  to  pierce  the  complacent  and  artificial  civility 
of  bourgeois  society.  His  major  weapon  is  a  stylized 
language  that  combines  an  incisive  and  poetic  rhythm, 
suggesting  power  and  dark  sexuality.  The  Local  Stigmatic 
reveals  Williams'  keen  insight  into  human  fear  and  envy, 


The  presentation  of  The  Local  Stigmatic  is  made  possible  in  part  by  a  grant  from  The  Bohen  Foundation.  The  New  American  Film  and  Video 
Series  is  made  possible  in  part  by  grants  from  Manufacturers  Hanover  Corporation,  Consolidated  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  Inc.,  George  S 
Kaufman  and  the  Kaufman  Astoria  Studios,  Inc.,  The  Bohen  Foundation,  the  John  D  and  Catherine  T.  MacArthur  Foundation,  The  Reed 
Foundation,  Inc.,  the  Billy  Rose  Foundation,  Inc.,  The  Andy  Warhol  Foundation  for  the  Visual  Arts,  Inc.,  the  Film  and  Video  Fellows  of  the  Whitney 
Museum  of  American  Art,  Susan  and  Arthur  Fleischer,  Jr.,  Toby  Horn  and  Richard  Kandel,  Nancy  Brown  Wellin,  Barbara  Wise,  the  New  York  State 
Council  on  the  Arts,  and  the  Nat